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Periodontal disease, usually called gum disease, is an insidious infection that comes from as many as 500 different kinds of microscopic organisms in your mouth that have also been proven to attack your body’s vital organs.
According to published statistics, over 60,000,000 people in the U.S.A. show signs of periodontal (gum) disease, a slowly-developing bacterial infection that attacks the gums and bone supporting the teeth. As gum disease continues unchecked, bacterial enzymes slowly destroy the gum tissue. Eventually, the bacteria breaks through and enters your bloodstream. These circulating bacteria generate inflammation all over your body. For seniors, children and anyone with a weakened immune system, this negative factor is likely to have a cumulative effect on their pre-existing medical conditions.
Other studies show that medicine for a variety of health conditions such as heart problems, lung disease such as emphysema or COPD, diabetes, hip replacement, kidney failure, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy might be hindered by bacteria from the mouth.
By having regular cleanings and periodontal therapy to guard against gum disease, you are saying, “no” to developing a heart attack and heart failure.
It’s been discovered that the way that gum disease affects your circulatory system is that periodontal disease fires off a series of chemical events that build an inflammatory response in the body’s vital systems. If the arteries become inflamed and constricted, blood clots can form, putting you at danger for heart attack or stroke. Plus, gum disease germs may also cling to the inner lining of the heart, thereby causing infective endocarditis.
Since the year 2000, several studies have found that there is a definite association between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease. One consequence of unchecked periodontal disease is the loss of teeth. After the gums have been diseased long-term, your teeth will fall out.
Scientists in Finland looked at the correlation between the number of missing teeth in a person and the rate of diagnosed heart disease in the group. They looked at over 1300 men between the ages of 45 and 64. The researchers discovered that those men with a higher number of missing teeth from ongoing gum disease also had a greater likelihood of having heart disease. Their conclusions? Gum disease raises the danger of heart attack by as much as 25 percent. It increases the danger of stroke by 10 times.
Inflammatory bacteria found in infected gum tissue can also get into your saliva. When you take a breath, your saliva is taken into the air in little droplets to help moisten your lung tissue. If you want to actually see the little droplets, just place a mirror about two inches from your mouth and slowly breathe out. The mirror will fog up a little. Those little drops of your saliva are being drawn deeply into your lungs where they land carrying their ugly cargo of bacteria.
Here is where the bacteria make a colony and induce swelling and inflammation that may start the next bout with lung disease like pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Add to that the fact that, if the individual is already being treated for one of these conditions, the periodontal germs can hinder your progress towards health.
For years researchers knew that people with diabetes are more prone to developing periodontal disease. Research is now revealing that it may work both ways: people with chronic gum infections are more likely to get diabetes. Scientists looked at results from a big health survey and discovered that when the survey started twenty years ago, those who already had periodontal disease had greater odds of developing Type II diabetes.
This study supports the concept that adults with chronic infections like periodontitis are more likely to eventually suffer from diabetes.
Previously, dental professionals vowed to save your teeth through regular dental care. Today, we have to expand our focus of care. If you have an inflammatory condition like periodontal disease, it puts you at a higher risk for more serious systemic problems, whether it’s heart problems, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. Today, as we take care of your mouth, not only do we save your teeth, which in itself is an admirable goal, we could also be protecting your life as well.
Dr. LeBlanc concludes, “It is no longer good enough to just keep watch on trouble spots in the gums. Given this new research, aggressively controlling periodontal disease will become a critical action step in preserving and improving our patients’ overall health and their enjoyment of life. To be exact, our patients will not be totally healthy unless they are periodontally healthy.”