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Link Between Periodontal Disease & Systemic Health

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Most people are aware that neglecting to brush and floss on a regular basis can lead to a number of oral complications, one of which is periodontal (gum) disease. What many individuals don’t know, however, is that the development of periodontal disease may not simply be an issue that solely affects one’s oral health. In fact, several studies have shown a connection between gum disease and a variety of other serious, potentially life-threatening health concerns. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, illnesses that have a probable link to periodontal disease include:

  • Diabetes – Due to the fact that people with diabetes are more prone to developing infections, gum disease is more likely to occur in individuals who have diabetes than those who do not. As a matter of fact, periodontal disease is considered by many to be a complication of diabetes, especially for people whose diabetes is not controlled.
  • Cardiovascular Disease – Research indicates that gum disease can increase the risk of heart disease. Inflammation in the gums can cause bleeding, which provides easy access for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Should this occur, bacteria can stick to platelets and cause blood clots to build, potentially disrupting blood flow to the heart.
  • Respiratory Disease – Studies suggest that bacteria found along the gums and in the mouth can be aspirated into the lungs, potentially leading to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia. People with periodontal disease seem to be at a higher risk for this to occur.
  • Cancer – In comparison to those who don’t have gum disease, research shows that males who have periodontal disease are approximately 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, and 30% more likely to develop some type of blood cancer.

In addition to these systemic health issues, other studies indicate a correlation between gum disease and osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and even adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as premature birth and/or low birth weight).

Ultimately, none of this is to claim that people with periodontal disease will definitely develop the above illnesses (or vice versa). However, there is a large amount of evidence that links gum disease to systemic health concerns, which makes maintaining a proper oral hygiene regimen all the more important. This consists of daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing, as well as bi-annual trips to the dentist. During these visits, experienced dental care professionals like Dr. Colin Morton can extensively clean the teeth and gums and look for any signs of periodontal disease, helping to identify – and treat – symptoms as early as possible for optimal oral and overall health.

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