When you were a child, your mom always told you to brush your teeth. As you were growing little older, she probably explained to you that if you don’t, your teeth will grow weak, bacteria will invade them, and you might lose your white pearls.
Plaque and Gingivitis
That’s true. What your mom didn’t tell you is that plaque and gingivitis can also harm your overall health. It’s either she didn’t know that, or maybe she didn’t want to scare you. That sticky bacterial plaque that builds on your teeth and causes your gums to bleed and become inflamed can threaten your health. Here are some ways how that can happen.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Many studies have shown a link between gum disease and heart disease. These studies indicate that those who have gum disease are at greater risk of heart attacks than those who have healthier gums. Why is this?
One theory points out that the oral bacteria can enter the blood stream. They may attach to the fatty plaques that contribute to the formation of clots that in turn can lead to heart attack.
Another belief is that the inflammation brought about by gum disease contributes to the swelling of the arteries.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
It’s always been known that diabetes can make a person at risk of gum disease. But it’s not just a one-way road. It works both ways. Gum disease can also make it difficult for a person with diabetes to control his/her blood sugar. It may worsen the condition. Severe gum disease can also shoot up levels of blood sugar, putting a diabetic person at greater risk for diabetic complications. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology in 1997 supports this correlation.
Gum Disease and Dementia
It’s hard to imagine how inflamed gums may affect a person’s brain to the extent of causing dementia. A study done by the University of South California researchers showed that chronic gum disease can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease four times. When a person has gum disease, this should be perceived as an indication that he is exposed to inflammation that can harm the brain tissues and lead to dementia. The findings of this study were published in the first Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia.
Periodontal Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid Arthritis refers to the autoimmune disease characterized by inflamed and painful joints. People suffering from RA are more likely to have gum disease. Treating gum disease improves a person’s RA condition. A study done in 2009 revealed that people who have rheumatoid arthritis attested that they had less pain and swelling after the gum disease was treated.
Gum Disease and Premature Birth
Another surprising link is between gum disease and premature birth. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease are at increased risk of premature delivery than those who don’t have the disease. Studies regarding this are still ongoing. Results are conflicting and more evidence is needed to support this. To ensure safety, pregnant women are advised to take care of their teeth and gums to stay away from gum problems as much as possible.