Gum Disease and Your Health: Is There a Connection?

Gum Disease and Your Health: Is There a Connection?

periodontal gum vs. healthy gumDid you know that poor dental health actually affects more than just your mouth? Recent findings show that there is actually a link between oral health and your general health, and that not taking good care of your teeth and gums can actually lead to serious health problems. Some of the problems that are linked with bacteria as well as inflammation found in your mouth, include diabetes, and heart disease.

Much like the other parts of your body, your mouth is a breeding place for bacteria. These are generally harmless however, poor dental hygiene may result in an increase in the bacteria found in your mouth, which can then lead to gum disease as well as tooth decay. Neglecting to take care of your teeth and gums regularly can result in your suffering certain ailments you never thought you could have.

How can bacteria on your gums and teeth bring about such illnesses? Researchers cannot definitively say how, but they believe that bacteria in inflamed gums may escape into a person’s bloodstream, which can then injure that person’s major organs. The inflammation, they say, seems to be one of the common links found in these diseases as well as in gum disease. To help you see just how important it is to take proper care of your teeth and gums, here is a list of some of the ailments that researchers say are associated with poor dental habits and gum disease:

  • Cardiovascular disease– it has been said that the bacteria that is left to flourish in one’s mouth may cause clogged arteries. This is due to the infections and inflammation that such bacteria may cause, which they can transport to your heart via your blood.
  • Endocarditis – this is another disease that is caused by bacteria, and affects the inner lining of your heart, otherwise known as the endocardium. This occurs when bacteria that comes from another part of your body (in this case, your gums and mouth) enters the bloodstream, which then enters your heart and latches onto the damaged areas in it.
  • Birth and pregnancy problems – it has also been noted that periodontitis can possibly cause babies to be born with a low birth weight, and sometimes even be born prematurely.
  • Osteoporosis – this is a disease that causes a person’s bones to become weak and brittle. Studies have also shown that there is a possibility that this is also linked with tooth loss and periodontal bone loss, which is also due to poor dental hygiene that leads to gum infections that causes such a problem.
  • Diabetes – since this ailment reduces a person’s resistance to infections, not taking care of your teeth and gums can result in more severe gum disease. It has been found that people with gum problems, like infections and inflammation, have a harder time keeping their blood sugar levels stable.
  • Respiratory diseases – as with other ailments, the bacteria that is multiplying and living in your mouth can actually reach your lungs, and this in turn can cause respiratory problems like pneumonia.
  • Cancer – gum disease has also been linked with certain cancers, and it has been found that this can increase a person’s chances of getting these cancers by as high as 54%. Some of the cancers mentioned include kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancer.

Probably the only way you can avoid the possibility of getting these ailments via gum and tooth infections is to prevent such infections from happening. Talk to your dentist about proper dental hygiene and have your teeth and gums checked regularly in order to alleviate such problems.

Dr. Allan Hawryluk
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Dr. Allan Hawryluk

Allan Hawryluk Jr. is a Mississauga-based dentist who has built a reputation for comprehensive dental care. Born and raised in Port Credit, he returned after completing his dental residency in 2003 at the University of Colorado, Denver Health Sciences Center. He feels privileged to serve the community and is committed to maintaining our clinic standards set by his late father - Dr. Allan R. Hawryluk (Sr).