Gum disease is a subtle condition that develops slowly and quietly, deceiving many concerning the serious risks it poses. These risks don't just cover dental health. New research reveals that gum disease is a dangerous catalyst to many other health conditions. Gum disease is often over-simplified as just minor gum irritation or soreness. Unfortunately, misconceptions such as this allow gum disease to progress to extremely dangerous levels. Take steps to increase your own awareness on how gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis put your health at risk.
Tooth Loss and Decay
The first and most obvious risk gum disease presents centers around your dental health. When plaque and bacteria are allowed to continually grow, the gums become inflamed and sensitive. They bleed easily and even gentle teeth brushing can be agonizing. If not treated, gingivitis progresses into periodontitis where the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form open pockets primed for further irritation and infection. Periodontitis puts the body's immune system at risk as it continually battles against bacteria and constant infections. These battles affect the connective tissue and bone structure of the mouth. As periodontitis progresses, bone tissue in the jaw is destroyed and and the teeth become loose, decayed, and eventually fall out. Research from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reveals that periodontitis is the leading cause of adult tooth loss.
The connection between diabetes and gum disease goes both ways. Diabetes is associated with a weakened immune system. This leaves the body far more open to potential infections. This weakened immunity is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria growth and infection within the gums. Those with both diabetes and periodontitis often experience more complications and difficulty in managing their health. This vicious cycle also reveals the increased risk of developing diabetes for those who suffer periodontitis. The American Diabetes Association reports that the inflammation from gum disease can lead to chronic hyperglycemia, a key aspect in insulin deficiency and insulin resistance.
Although not every aspect of the cause-and-effect relationship between periodontitis and heart disease has been established, research is pointing toward strong ties between these diseases. Studies have revealed that those with periodontitis are approximately 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack. Also, those with periodontitis were up to 72% more likely to develop a coronary heart disease compared to those with good dental health. These statistics reveal just how vital good gum and dental health is to vascular health. Not only does gum disease increase the risk of heart conditions, it also plays a role in greater complications for those who already suffer from a heart or vascular condition. The bacteria and inflammation from gum disease infiltrates the blood stream and worsens already damaged portions of the heart or vascular system.
Cancer is often considered one of the most frightening health conditions a person may face. Causes and risks for this disease are not always well-known or obvious. Unfortunately, this is true for the increased risk periodontitis presents for oral, upper GI, and gastric cancers.
- Oral Cancers
Studies have shown that patients with severe gum disease are far more likely to develop oral tumors and precancerous lesions. This is due to the chronic inflammation and infections that assault the mouth. The longer this disease progresses, the greater the risks become.
- Upper GI and Gastric Cancers
A Japanese study concluded that the risk of developing a GI cancer increased 2-fold for those who lost 10 or more teeth. The cancer risk further increased for every new tooth these patients lost. Although not every study has reached this same conclusion of the connection between periodontitis and cancers, the potential risk is significant enough.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 47.2% of adults suffer from some level of gum disease. As a person ages, the statics only increase. 70.1% of adults 65 years or older suffer from periodontal disease. With gum disease reaching epidemic-like proportions, awareness of this condition has never been more important. By learning the signs and symptoms and understanding the increased health risks it brings, we can better protect not only our mouths but our entire body from this dangerous condition.
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