7 Unexpected Health Issues Associated With Gum Disease

Gum disease tends to sneak up on you, gradually building without giving you a clue it’s there, until you discover bleeding or swollen gums. By the time you suspect a problem, the bacteria that caused it may have already spread through your bloodstream. That’s the start of bigger health problems.

The team at Wellness Dental is concerned about your overall health, and we want you to know that untreated gum disease can cause seven unexpected — and serious — health issues.

The stealthy spread of gum disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, begins when bacteria that normally thrive in your mouth form plaque and stick to your teeth. The plaque that’s not removed by regular brushing and dental care allows the bacteria plenty of time to snuggle against your teeth and cause damage.

The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that damage your gums and erode the bone supporting your teeth. But that’s not all that happens. They also secrete acids that break the barrier separating dental tissue from your bloodstream.

When that occurs, dental bacteria can leave your mouth and travel through your blood, causing inflammation and spreading infection. That’s the start of unexpected health issues due to periodontal disease.

Here’s a look at seven systemic problems that can develop from untreated gum disease.

Heart disease

Untreated gum disease doubles your risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with people who have healthy gums. Experts believe your risk increases when dental bacteria trigger inflammation that affects your heart and blood vessels.

It’s also possible that the bacteria find a new home in plaque that accumulates in your arteries due to cholesterol and other fats, where they aggravate or cause blood vessel problems.

Stroke

Inflammation caused by dental bacteria doubles or triples your risk of having a stroke. As gum disease progresses, the possibility of a stroke also rises. One study found that people who don’t get regular dental checkups have double the chance of a stroke compared to those who come in for routine care.  

High blood sugar

Periodontal disease and diabetes share a relationship that sets you up for an ever-worsening cycle of health problems: Gum disease raises blood sugar, while diabetes increases your risk for gum disease.

Gum disease boosts your blood sugar even if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes. As a result, your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes increase.

On the other hand, if you do have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease. High blood sugar promotes bacterial growth in your mouth, which develops into dental plaque that leads to gum disease.

How strong is the connection? One study showed that people with diabetes and gum disease are six times more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar compared to diabetics without gum disease.  

High blood pressure

Periodontal disease may also contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension). Studies show that people with gum disease have higher blood pressure than those without gum disease. And that’s not all — blood pressure rises as untreated gum disease worsens.

Inflammation caused by dental bacteria may cause high blood pressure, but gum disease may cause other concerns. For example, it may increase the number of free radicals (molecules that damage healthy cells) in your bloodstream, a problem that’s linked to high blood pressure.

Respiratory health

You may not be surprised that dental bacteria can get into your bloodstream and cause widespread health problems, but here’s a shocker: Bacteria in your mouth can be aspirated into your lungs. In other words, the simple act of breathing can pull bacteria through your mouth and into your airways.

When dental bacteria enter your lungs, they can lead to respiratory diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis.

Liver disease

Bacteria that originate in your mouth and spread through your blood have been found in liver tissue, where they may cause liver disease or aggravate existing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Just like other diseases in your body associated with periodontitis, liver problems are likely due to inflammation.

Newborn health

When you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to develop gum disease because hormonal changes make you susceptible to increased bacteria and plaque.

When dental bacteria get into your bloodstream and cause inflammation, it may affect the health of your baby, potentially causing preterm labor or a higher risk of delivering a low birth weight baby.

With routine dental checkups, you shouldn’t need to worry about gum disease and unexpected health issues. Give us a call if you have questions or if you’re due (or overdue) for dental care.

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