Effects of Gum Disease Extend Beyond the Mouth


A person’s gums are one of the most under-appreciated and overworked parts of their body and essential for maintaining great teeth, oral health, and overall health. Gums hold teeth in place firmly, protect them and nourish the entire mouth. Healthy gums equal a healthy body, which is why it’s alarming that as of 2012 a CDC report revealed that some form of gum disease affects over 47% of adults in the United States. Over the age of 65, that rate increases to 70% of adults. It’s essential that everyone take steps to prevent, treat and reverse gum disease because it affects much more than just the mouth.

Causes of Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease and happens when bacteria in the mouth finds places to thrive and build up. Bacteria usually accumulate below and around the gum line and this causes irritation and swelling that creates an immune reaction from the body. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and without treatment, gum pockets form between the teeth and gums where bacteria collects and penetrates below the gum line. Left untreated, gingivitis can develop into more severe periodontitis. During periodontitis, the bacteria buildup, swelling and body’s immune response can cause the connection between the teeth and gums to deteriorate leading to loose teeth and possible tooth loss. The symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Inflamed, red, bleeding or tender gums
  • Pain when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Loose teeth
  • Gum recession

Without treatment, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, but its effects extend beyond the mouth and can cause major issues with other systems in the body. Gum disease has a connection to serious health issues and may exacerbate existing health conditions.

Respiratory System

A 2011 study uncovered a connection between gum disease and respiratory illnesses such as COPD, acute bronchitis, and pneumonia. Their theory is that when the body has to fight off infection and inflammation from gum disease, it compromised the body’s ability to fight off respiratory infections.

Stroke and Heart Disease

Studies and research show common risk factors connected with gum disease, a risk of stroke and heart disease. These risk factors include genetics, presence of diabetes, age, and smoking habits. Research continues to seek the probable connection between the bacteria found in gum disease and the bacteria that collects in the arteries and leads to certain kinds of heart disease.

Fertility and Pregnancy

One way that gum disease affects more than the mouth that people may not even know about is its impact on fertility and pregnancy. Studies show that women with gum disease can take 2-3 months longer to conceive that women with healthy teeth and gums. Quite often, IVF clinics and fertility specialist require women trying to conceive or undergo IVF to show that they don’t have gum disease or are undergoing treatment for gum disease. The risk of gum disease can increase with pregnancy due to hormonal changes and approximately 40% of pregnant women develop it at some time during their pregnancy. Pregnancy-related gum disease can clear up on its own with care and monitoring by a dentist, but women with active gum disease have an increased risk of delivering early or having babies with an unusually low birth weight.

Gum Disease Highly Preventable

Although almost half of adults have some version of gum disease, there’s no reason to expect to get it and give up trying to prevent it. Gum disease is preventable, treatable and in most cases, fully curable. The dentist can detect gum disease even before a patient notices symptoms, which is why regular exams and cleaning are essential. Along with dental visits, practicing great oral hygiene including brushing teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day can help prevent gum disease and protect overall health.

Keep your teeth, gums and entire body healthy by scheduling an exam and professional cleaning from Greater Baltimore Prosthodontics.

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