Oral health can affect many aspects of your life, from eating, smiling, and laughing to your confidence and self-image. When people think about maintaining their oral health, they often pay more attention to their teeth than to their gums. No matter what age you are, gum disease can strike and create significant issues that impact your oral health for years to come.
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It’s mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up. In some people who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn’t clear up properly. The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.
Unfortunately, gum disease is a very serious problem that leads to severe consequences. If left untreated, gum disease – also known as periodontal disease – can result in substantial health issues and make individuals more susceptible to a range of conditions, including cancer of the kidney, pancreas and blood. In the beginning stages of gum disease, plaque hardens and turns into tartar. Once tartar is built up on your teeth, professional attention is required to remove it. During this phase of gum disease, called gingivitis, patients will experience gums that bleed when they brush and floss. Other early signs of gum disease include bright red, inflamed, or swollen gums. While there are no irreversible, long term effects at this point, it is essential to seek help immediately. Gum disease can quickly turn from mild to severe as tartar, full of dangerous bacteria and deposits, starts to spread down below the gum line.
Left untreated, gingivitis can turn to periodontitis. As tartar advances, the gums pull away from the teeth, forming periodontal pockets which harbour even more bacteria. These pockets allow the infection to live on in an area that you can’t reach with brushing or flossing. As your body tries to fight the infection, its antibodies also attack many of your healthy cells, so the condition of your gums and the underlying bone will rapidly deteriorate. The effects of periodontitis include receding gums, bone damage, and tooth loss. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
The long-term effects of periodontal disease don’t stop with dental health. As bacteria continue to grow, it can leach into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body causing problems. In fact, research has shown that the same oral bacteria that cause tooth decay have been found in the plaques that line your arteries, contributing to heart disease. Your body reacts to these bacteria by sparking an inflammatory response. For this reason, periodontal disease can aggravate other inflammation-causing illnesses, such as rhuematoid arthritis, respiratory disease, kidney cancer, and even blood cancers like leukemia.
Periodontal disease has also been found to increase blood sugar, which is why it is so troublesome in people who have diabetes. In fact, people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease, and the mere presence of periodontal disease can signal the development of diabetes later in life–even if patients haven’t shown symptoms of diabetes yet.
Since periodontal disease causes health problems throughout your body, it decreases your overall immune response, which can put you at a higher risk for other infections. There is also a correlation between serious gum disease and overall physical health problems. Although the mechanism behind the correlation is still unknown, it can result in substantial health issues and make individuals more susceptible to a range of conditions, including cancer of the kidney, pancreas and blood.