Millions of germs live in your mouth. If you suffer from gum disease, open wounds in your gums allow the bacteria to enter your bloodstream and circulate throughout your body. Some bacteria normally found in the mouth enter your bloodstream through infected gums and can relocate to other parts of your body, potentially creating disease in organs and systems. Research is investigating the links between periodontal disease and other systemic illnesses. Many results are inconclusive; however, research has shown some links between gum disease and heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, head and neck cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, and increased risk of pre-term delivery.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss for most adults in the United States. Losing your teeth, however, is not the only danger of this disease. There is an active infection in your mouth when you have gum disease. This infection releases toxins to the entire body through the blood vessels in your mouth, causing various health-related issues. Dr. Ancy Verdier, Dr. Mariam Khan, and Dr. Jennifer Chang Sullivan offer gum disease treatment to patients in Concord and Lexington, MA, and surrounding areas. Their experience in periodontal care allows them to renew the full health of patients with painful, bleeding, and receding gums.
Heart Disease and Gum Disease in Lexington, MA
Scientists say they have established one reason gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. The link between gum and heart problems has long been recognized. However, it is unclear if poor oral health is simply a marker of a person’s general well-being. UK and Irish experts now say bacteria enter the bloodstream via sore gums and deposit a clot-forming protein. The findings are being presented at a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology.
A Scottish study of more than 11,000 people found people who did not brush their teeth twice a day were at increased risk of heart disease. It backed up previous findings that suggested a link, but researchers stressed the nature of the relationship still needed further analysis.
Scientists from the University of Bristol working with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland now suggest it is the Streptococcus bacteria – responsible for causing tooth plaque and gum disease – which may be to blame. Their work shows this bacteria, once let loose in the bloodstream, makes a protein known as PadA, which forces platelets in the blood to stick together and clot.
Research such as this is a welcome contribution to further understanding the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. “This provides a protective cover not only from the immune system but also from antibiotics that might be used to treat infection,” said Professor Howard Jenkinson, who led the research. “Unfortunately, as well as helping out the bacteria, platelet clumping can cause small blood clots, growths on the heart valves, or inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart and brain.” While maintaining good dental hygiene could minimize the risk, the team is also investigating how the platelet-activating function of the protein PadA can be blocked.
Professor Damian Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said: “Research such as this makes a welcome contribution to further understanding the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. “It also underlines the high importance of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, restricting your intake of sugary foods and drinks, and visiting the dentist regularly in order to maintain good oral health.”
The British Heart Foundation said other factors besides oral health had a greater impact on heart health. But their senior cardiac nurse Cathy Ross added that combining good oral health care “with a healthy diet, not smoking and taking part in plenty of physical activity will go a long way in helping you reduce your overall risk of heart disease.”
Pancreatic Cancer and Gum Disease
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. It is extremely difficult to treat, and little is known about what causes it. One established risk factor is cigarette smoking. Other links have been made to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance. In a new study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that periodontal disease was associated with an increased risk of cancer of the pancreas. The study appeared in the January 17, 2007, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“Our study provides the first strong evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. This finding is significant as it may provide some new insights into the mechanism of this highly fatal disease,” said lead author Dominique Michaud, assistant professor of epidemiology at HSPH.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacterial infection and inflammation of the gums that, over time, cause loss of bone supporting the teeth; tooth loss is a consequence of severe periodontal disease. Two previous studies found a link between tooth loss or periodontitis and pancreatic cancer. One study consisted of all smokers and the other did not control for smoking in the analysis; therefore, no firm conclusions could be drawn from these studies.
Data for the new study came from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986, and included 51,529 U.S. men working in the health professions. Participants responded to questionnaires about their health every two years. After analyzing the data, the researchers confirmed 216 cases of pancreatic cancer between 1986 and 2002; of those, 67 reported periodontal disease.
The results showed that–after adjusting for age, smoking, diabetes, body mass index, and several other factors–men with periodontal disease had a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those reporting no periodontal disease. “Most convincing was our finding that never-smokers had a two-fold increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer,” said Michaud.
One possible explanation for the results is that periodontal disease inflammation may promote pancreas cancer. “Individuals with periodontal disease have elevated serum biomarkers of systemic inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, and these may somehow contribute to the promotion of cancer cells,” she said.
Another explanation, according to Michaud, is that periodontal disease could lead to increased pancreatic carcinogenesis because individuals with periodontal disease have higher levels of oral bacteria and higher levels of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens, in their oral cavity. Prior studies have shown that nitrosamines and gastric acidity may play a role in pancreatic cancer.
Michaud; senior author Charles Fuchs, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Dana-Farber; and their colleagues believe that further studies should be done to investigate the role of inflammation from periodontal disease in pancreatic cancer. However, Michaud notes that the underlying mechanisms for this association are speculative at this point. “More research is needed both to confirm this finding in other populations and also to explore the role of inflammation in this particular cancer,” she said.
Diabetes and Gum Disease
Research has come forth that suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways. Gum problems can make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Those who have diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than those who do not, which makes it vital for diabetics to maintain their blood sugar and seek treatment.
Diabetes Increases Chances of Periodontal Disease
Diabetics, due to their increased susceptibility to infection, are at greater risk of developing periodontal disease than those without diabetes. Those who do not have their diabetes under control are at an even greater risk. Uncontrolled diabetes impairs white blood cells, the body’s main defense against bacterial infections in the mouth. It increases a diabetic’s risk of moderate to severe gum disease.
Patients with diabetes often experience dry mouth, gum inflammation, and poor healing in the oral tissues. All of these complications of diabetes can put a patient at greater risk for periodontal disease, but the inflammation of the gums is by far the most threatening. Besides impairing white blood cells, diabetes also causes blood vessels to thicken. Thickened blood vessels slow the flow of nutrients and waste products from the mouth’s tissues. This inflammation greatly reduces the body’s ability to fight infections, such as bacterial infection that causes periodontitis or gum disease.
Additionally, gum disease can do more damage in diabetic patients. Diabetics may have impaired healing, allowing periodontal disease to cause further destruction faster.
Diabetes and Periodontal Disease: A Two-Way Street
Not only does diabetes affect periodontal disease, but it can affect a patient’s diabetes. The relationship is a two-way street. Periodontal disease may make it more difficult for patients with diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with high blood sugar. Bacterial infections, like periodontal disease, can affect the patient’s metabolism making it far more complicated to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Because gum disease is a chronic infection, it harms the diabetic’s ability to maintain control of the metabolic status. All of these effects can increase the risk for some of the complications of diabetes: glaucoma, neuropathy, and high blood pressure.
Several studies have found that treating periodontal disease helps diabetics control their blood sugars. One study of 113 Pima Indians, published in the Journal of Periodontology (1997), found that when the Indians’ periodontal infections were treated, the management of their diabetes markedly improved.
Treatment of Periodontal Disease in the Diabetic
If you have diabetes, schedule an appointment today. Treatment options for periodontal disease vary and can help you maintain and control your diabetic status. If you are diabetic, it is crucial for you to have healthy gums. Healthy gums will make controlling your blood sugar levels easier, saving you time, effort, and money!
Osteoporosis is a major concern for many older men and women. It’s estimated that more than 40 million people either already suffer from the disease or are at risk of developing it. Recent research suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. When bone loss in the jaw occurs, teeth that are usually supported and anchored by the jawbone may become loose; tooth loss may occur.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Normal human bone looks like a honeycomb, but bones affected by osteoporosis have holes and spaces that are much bigger. This means the bones have lost density or mass. As bones become less dense, they become weaker and more brittle. Doing the simplest chores, like picking up a newspaper, is potentially hazardous. Something like picking up a child or even sneezing could cause a break.
Bones are living tissue and are constantly being absorbed and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the body cannot quickly create new bone to keep up with removing old bone. Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the human body, including the jawbone. It can occur in men and women but most often occurs in Caucasian women over 65.
How Does Osteoporosis Affect My Oral Health?
Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those who do not have the disease. Because osteoporosis can occur in any bone in the body, the jawbone is susceptible to the disease. Low bone density in the jaw can result in loose teeth and tooth loss. Women with osteoporosis may have trouble with loose or ill-fitting dentures as the bone is absorbed but not replaced over time.
Women with periodontal disease and osteoporosis are especially susceptible to tooth loss. Studies have recently shown a strong relationship between periodontitis, osteoporosis, and tooth loss. It has been suggested that the loss of bone density in the jaw may leave teeth more susceptible to the bacteria that cause gum disease.
Strokes and Periodontal Disease
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the leading cause of death in older Americans. It is estimated that one American suffers from an instance every 45 seconds. With one in four men and one in five women over 45 suffering from a stroke, reducing your risk of having one is very important.
A stroke occurs when the blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen are damaged or compromised. Restricting the brain of oxygen, even briefly, can result in a stroke. Strokes are widely feared because of their debilitating aftermath. Even minor or mini-strokes can result in life-altering consequences, such as paralysis, weakness, aphasia (losing the ability to speak, write, or understand language), and mental health changes.
Recent studies have shown that people with moderate to advanced periodontal disease are at a greater risk. One study published by the American Stroke Association in 2004 showed that patients with severe periodontitis, or gum disease, had a 4.3 times higher risk of stroke than those with mild or no periodontal disease. The bottom line is: If you have an infection in your mouth 24 hours a day for seven days per week, it will spread to your entire body!
New studies are released every year linking periodontal disease and stroke. The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable and treatable and is an easy way to eliminate one risk factor you may have for stroke.
Low Birth Weight and Premature Babies
Most women know smoking, drinking, and drug use negatively affect pregnancy. Something that many women may not be aware of is the effect that having gum disease has on pregnant women. Some studies show pregnant women may be at a higher risk of giving birth to pre-term and low birth weight babies when they have gum disease.
It is important for more research to be done regarding this correlation, but one thing is for sure…
Any active infection in pregnant women should be avoided at all costs; gum disease is a living, breathing infection in your mouth. Get it treated.
Studies by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry revealed that women with gum (periodontal) disease might be up to seven times more likely to deliver a pre-term, low-birth-weight baby. Compare that with the effects of alcohol and smoking, which are said to increase the odds of a low birth weight baby by only three times.
Gum Disease and Moms-to-be
How can your gums affect the weight of the fetus? It has to do with the fact that periodontal disease causes bacterial infections. Pregnant women should avoid any situation where they can obtain an infection, knowing that there may be repercussions on their health or that of the unborn baby. It is becoming clear that an infection of gum tissues is no exception.
Women who have experienced problems with their oral health are most likely to experience gingivitis (the earliest form of gum disease) during pregnancy. Even tissues in the mouth undergo changes during pregnancy. Gingivitis usually appears in the second or third month and can last all the way through the eighth month of pregnancy. If your gums bleed when you brush and floss, this could indicate that you have gingivitis.
If a dental professional does not treat these red and swollen gums, the condition can deteriorate into periodontal disease. Gum disease can attack the gums and bone surrounding the teeth and eventually lead to tooth loss. The natural space between your teeth and gums becomes infected. Pockets can form where bacteria thrive. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believe toxins are released into the bloodstream. The body reacts by producing chemicals that cause premature labor.
Signs of Gum Disease
You may not normally experience pain with gingivitis or periodontal disease, but there are other symptoms:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
- Gums that seem to have pulled away from the teeth
- Loose teeth
- A change in your bite
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Persistent bad breath
More research is underway in gum disease treatment for pregnant women. We suggest checking your oral health before considering pregnancy or as soon as possible after you know you are pregnant.
Stages Of Gum Disease
The daily task of brushing and flossing your teeth can avoid gum disease and reduce gum disease’s risks on your overall health. An estimated 75% of Americans have gum disease, which can be linked to serious health complications and causes avoidable dental problems.
There are three main stages of gum disease:
Stage 1: Gingivitis
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, caused by plaque buildup around the gum line, which causes inflammation of the gums. If you neglect to brush or floss your teeth daily, this plaque buildup will trap bacteria and cause gum disease. Gingivitis causes inflammation of the gums. Gums that should otherwise be pink will appear red and swollen; you could experience bleeding when you brush or floss. However, we can still reverse gingivitis because the bone and fibers holding your teeth are unaffected.
Stage 2: Periodontitis
If left untreated, gingivitis will become periodontitis. At this stage, the supporting bones and fibers that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. Your gums form “pockets,” deep hollow areas around the teeth that trap food, plaque, and bacteria. Your gums will recede and form gaps between your teeth. Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent further damage and tooth loss.
Stage 3: Advanced Periodontitis
In this final stage, untreated periodontitis becomes advanced periodontitis. Bacteria allowed to grow, spread, and cause destruction has destroyed the connective tissues and bones supporting the teeth. The pockets that formed in the previous stage have become much deeper. Your teeth can shift or loosen. Loose teeth that move around in the mouth may affect your bite. In this state, only aggressive treatment can save the teeth.
Save Your Gums
Are you noticing early signs of gum disease, like bleeding or irritated gums? Receive care today. Call our Lexington office at 781.384.5892. You can call our Concord office at 978.391.6081.