Gum disease – periodontitis or periodontal disease – occurs when bacterial plaque and tartar become trapped in pockets between your teeth and gums, and infection spreads to the ligaments and bone that support your teeth.
Periodontitis is the chief cause of tooth loss among adults – but the problem may go much deeper, potentially threatening other parts of your body and posing a serious risk to your health.
Besides oral health problems, gum disease has been linked with several other medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Lung infections
Stroke and Gum Disease
The most common form of stroke is an ischemic stroke, resulting from a blood clot getting into the brain, cutting off blood supply and its oxygen and nutrients.
Ischemic stroke and gum disease probably have more in common than you might realise. Both conditions are associated with inflammation.
The infection from gum disease can cause the body’s immune system to over-react, producing excessive inflammation or inflammation that doesn’t clear up. This can result in clotting in blood vessels that travel to your brain.
Studies have shown that regular dental care is associated with less risk of a stroke, particularly in men and younger people.
Heart Problems and Gum disease
As with a stroke, a blood clot is the typical cause of heart disease – also known as cardiovascular disease. Unlike a stroke, cardiovascular problems affect the heart itself, blocking blood flow to part of the organ.
Whether there’s a direct connection between cardiovascular issues and gum disease is still being debated. However, several studies indicate that people with periodontitis have higher rates of heart disease than those with good oral health.
One theory is that the type of plaque that causes gum disease may be connected to the plaque found in arteries in cases of heart disease.
Some health experts estimate that people with gum disease are at least twice as likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other significant cardiovascular problem.
Lung Infections and Gum Disease
Health Canada reports that bacteria in dental plaque can be inhaled into the lungs, triggering infection or worsening an existing respiratory problem, particularly in older people.
A UK study published in 2019 revealed a strong relationship between lung infections and chronic gum disease, namely:
- Tubes in the lungs becoming inflamed through periodontal disease, impairing air flow.
- Bacteria from gum disease being inhaled into the lungs, causing infection.
Research in the US has found that periodontitis may increase the risk of severe lung infections such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – chronic bronchitis or emphysema
A Healthy Mouth Means a Healthy Body
Our dental office is well aware of the connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body and we specialize in a comprehensive range of gum disease treatments.
We’re happy to advise patients on how to maintain a good routine of oral healthcare at home, and offer preventive dentistry such as dental exams and professional cleanings, plus sealant and fluoride treatments.