The systemic dangers of gum disease are well documented in the dental community. It is now well known that gum (peridontal) disease isn’t just bad news for your teeth and gums; it also presents a significant risk to your overall health and wellbeing. Gum disease starts off as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and can proceed to periodontitis (inflammation of the surrounding tissues including the jaw bone).
Gum disease has been scientifically recorded to affect other parts of the body, increasing your risk of stroke, heart disease and even cancer!
These are the top five systemic dangers related to poor dental hygiene.
There have been multiple studies on the effects of periodontal disease and its correlation to cognitive function. For example, one recent study found that the risk of cognitive decline in older men increased for each tooth lost due to poor dental hygiene.
It has also been noted that those studied for gum disease were found to have a build-up of beta-amyloid in the brain; this is the neurological hallmark of Alzheimer’s.
This form of bacteria stems from gum disease and can often be found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Details on the direct correlation between gum disease and heart disease have grown in popularity, with many scientific studies finding a direct link between the two.
The most common cause is due to inflammation in the gums. This inflammation is the direct cause of gum disease.
This is dangerous as inflammation is known to spark a chain reaction.
The bacteria start in the mouth; then it enters the bloodstream. Once it has found a way, the inflammation can spread throughout the rest of the body, most notably the heart.
A study from a medical journal published in 2008 concludes a direct link between gum disease and cancer. Within this journal, it was discovered that the enzyme produced by a specific type of bacteria most associated with gum disease ‘Treponema Denticola’
is also commonly found in tumours, often relating to the gastrointestinal system.
The research paper also found that it activated other enzymes that promote cancer cells as they advance into healthy tissue.
In a recent study conducted in February 2019, scientists discovered a significant correlation between chronic periodontitis and a reduction in respiratory function. This is related to inflammation. They noted that if the tubes in the lungs that carry air are inflamed, they become narrower, and airflow is restricted. In addition, it was discovered that bacteria present in the mouth might also be breathed into the lungs. Once in the lungs, the bacteria could trigger infections that directly lead to inflammation. Similarly, enzymes produced during gum disease might pass into the lungs. Once there, they could help pathogens take root and colonise the lung tissue.
Multiple scientific journals have noted links between gum disease and erectile dysfunction. One most notable study published in 2016 found numerous associations between erectile dysfunction and chronic periodontitis.
So much so that they listed in their journal “that physicians should refer patients with [erectile dysfunction] to oral healthcare providers for a comprehensive oral evaluation and treatment.”
The cause may primarily be due to inflammation.
How to improve your overall health?
Brushing your teeth, flossing and maintaining your gums can prevent and treat gum disease, reduce your risk of systemic health problems and most importantly, improve your overall health.
Simply brush your teeth for a full two minutes a day with toothpaste. Then, clean in between your teeth with dental floss and interdental brushes, and rinse with an alcohol free mouthwash.
Remember to maintain regular visits to your dentist and dental hygienist for check-ups and regular cleaning, if required.
List of References
1) Kaye EK, Valencia A, Baba N, Spiro A 3rd, Dietrich T, Garcia RI. Tooth loss and periodontal disease predict poor cognitive function in older men. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Apr;58(4):713-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.02788.x. PMID: 20398152; PMCID: PMC3649065.
2) FAST TRACK — ARTICLES| VOLUME 9, ISSUE 6,
Dr Dominique S Michaud, ScD, Yan Liu, Mara Meyer, Prof Edward Giovannucci, Prof Kaumudi Joshipura,
Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
Published:May 06, 2008: 550-558. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70106-2
3) Kellesarian SV, Kellesarian TV, Ros Malignaggi V, et al. Association Between Periodontal Disease and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Men’s Health. March 2018:338-346. doi:10.1177/1557988316639050
4) Winning, L, Patterson, CC, Cullen, KM, Kee, F, Linden, GJ. Chronic periodontitis and reduced respiratory function. J Clin Periodontol. 2019; 46: 266– 275. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpe.13076