When we think of oral health, we rarely consider it linked to general health or the development of chronic diseases. However, good oral hygiene is greatly beneficial to overall well-being.
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis or periodontal disease, is an infection that damages the gums, teeth and jaw. Like other infections, gum disease increases inflammation in the body. This increase in inflammation is linked to chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Understanding periodontitis, how it is related to chronic disease, and how your Slidell dentist can help prevent it is key to mitigating its risks.
Periodontitis (gum disease)
Gums support the teeth and act as a barrier against bacteria and infection. They seal and protect the roots, nerves and blood vessels in the teeth, as well as the bone in the jaw.
When proper oral hygiene is not maintained, food particles form a sticky film of plaque, which can harden and turn into tartar. Tartar is more difficult to remove and creates a sticky surface area for additional plaque to adhere to and grow. Furthermore, the bacteria in tartar irritate gums and erode your teeth.
Over time, tartar can create pockets between the gums and teeth, commonly known as periodontal pockets. These pockets expose the vulnerable parts of the teeth and jaw to bacteria. They are hard to reach and clean, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to develop into an infection causing gum disease – which affects the rest of your body in various ways.
Gum disease and your health
The root of each tooth contains nerves and blood vessels extending into the jawbone. These blood vessels, which supply teeth with blood, keep them alive and allow them to feel sensations, are also a gateway to the bloodstream. Gum disease is an infection that seeps into the bloodstream through the mouth, causing inflammation. Inflammation is an autoimmune response to pathogens. Unfortunately, if inflammation persists over a prolonged period, it can damage organs and tissues, making you susceptible to other diseases.
Studies show that some bacteria related to gum disease can cause a chemical reaction in the bloodstream, leading to higher levels of a glucose-linked hemoglobin found in diabetic patients. This increase in blood glucose levels increases the risk of diabetes. Diabetes weakens the immune system, causes dry mouth and thickens blood vessels. This makes it harder for the body to heal, exacerbating gum disease and creating a cycle of inflammation.
Inflammation and bacteria from gum disease can also increase a protein found in blood plasma that responds to inflammation. This can result in the development of arterial plaque, which may restrict blood flow to the heart and other organs. It can also cause blood clots, increasing the risk of cardiovascular events such as a stroke or heart attack.
Inflammation is the body’s protective response to infection. The aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is a bacteria present in gum infections that triggers an autoimmune response. This produces proteins that cause the immune system to become overactive, resulting in the body attacking healthy joint tissue and leading to joint inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
As bacteria from gum disease colonizes in the reservoirs of your teeth, gums and periodontal pockets, it aspirates into the lungs from droplets in the mouth, which can cause chronic inflammation in the lining of the lungs and surrounding airways. Such chronic inflammation puts people with gum disease at risk of contracting respiratory illnesses such as the Covid-19, bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia.
Oral bacteria from gum disease have also been found to increase production in the brain of a protein called beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloids are the main component of plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Another enzyme produced by oral bacteria associated with the disease is treponema denticola. This enzyme helps oral bacteria attack the gum tissue and has been found to activate other enzymes that encourage cancer cells. The progression of gum disease increases the production of these enzymes and directly correlates with an increased risk of cancer.
Warning signs of gum disease
You may require urgent dental care if you display symptoms of gum disease. These symptoms include:
- Red and inflamed gums
- Bleeding gums while brushing and flossing
- Bad breadth
- Tooth sensitivity or pain
- Receding gums
- Pus in the gums
- Loose teeth
An early warning sign of gum disease is inflammation of the gingiva (gums) known as gingivitis, which is reversible. Gum disease will worsen if left untreated. Good oral hygiene practices and regular visits to your professional dentist in Slidell can keep you smiling and reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses.
Urgent dental care in Slidell
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with gum disease and need a dentist in Slidell, contact the dental professionals at Fremaux Dental Care. Our dental clinic is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a friendly and courteous dental team. Visit our website to request an appointment or call us at (985)445-9656.