If you think gum disease prevention is all about your oral hygiene, think again. Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can be the beginning of serious health problems outside of your mouth. As you can see, the health of your teeth indicates long-term health from head to toe.
Millions of Americans currently suffer from gum disease. Symptoms include swollen, red and tender teeth. Kidney disease can be cured if detected early. Preventing gum disease is as simple as flossing regularly, brushing your teeth twice a day, rinsing your mouth, and getting regular dental checkups.
So how does the condition relate to overall health? Over the years, studies published on StudyFinds reveal links between gum disease and everything from heart and blood pressure complications to mental health problems. Visit your dentist regularly to learn about your dental health and ways to prevent periodontitis.
Here is a look at the health issues related to gum disease:
Increases the risk of heart disease
Add gum disease to the list of factors that increase your risk of heart disease, according to research. The stronger the association, the more severe the periodontitis.
“Our research shows that dental screening programs, including regular checkups and education about proper dental hygiene, can help prevent first and subsequent heart events.” says Dr. Giulia Ferrannini is a research writer and fellow at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. “We think that the destruction of periodontal tissue in people with periodontal disease makes it easier for microbes to enter the bloodstream. This may accelerate vascular malformations and/or exacerbate vascular-damaging systemic inflammation.
A study found that people with gum disease were 49% more likely to have heart disease.
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Risk of developing mental health problems, autoimmune conditions
Poor dental health can also lead to poor mental health, research shows. Developing gum disease increases a person’s risk of depression and anxiety over the next few years, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham. Along with mental health problems, the study authors found that a history of gum disease significantly increases a person’s risk of developing autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and even metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Researchers studied the medical histories of more than 64,000 people with periodontal disease. These include gingivitis and periodontitis—a serious infection that causes bleeding gums and destroys jawbones without prompt treatment. A total of 60,995 participants had gingivitis and 3,384 had periodontitis.
The results show that those with periodontal disease at the start of the study had a 37 percent higher risk of developing mental health problems over the next three years. The study’s authors note that these issues include higher rates of depression, anxiety and “serious mental illness.”
“An important implication of our findings is the need for effective communication between dental and other healthcare professionals to obtain an effective treatment plan focused on oral and general health to improve patients’ overall health and reduce future disease risk,” adds Ko. – great author, Professor Krish Nirantharakumar.
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Those with the following conditions are 9 times more likely to die from COVID-19
It’s no secret that during COVID-19, patients are afraid to enter the dentist’s office because of all the small particles that can fly in the air. However, for people with gum disease, cleanings can save their lives. Study shows concerns about dental disease patients infected with COVID-19 nine times may die.
An international team found that patients with COVID-19 were three times more likely to end up in intensive care or on a ventilator if they had periodontitis. About half of the world’s population over 30 years of age suffers from periodontitis. Gum disease causes swelling and bleeding in and around the gums that cover the gums.
If not treated properly, the inflammation can spread throughout the body and even infect the lungs. Researchers say coronavirus patients on ventilators may be particularly vulnerable because they are more likely to inhale oral bacteria.
“The results of the study indicate that inflammation in the oral cavity may allow the spread of the coronavirus,” said study co-author Professor Lior Shapira of Hebrew University. “Oral care should be part of health care recommendations to reduce the severe effects of COVID-19.”
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From the gum to the gut: Periodontitis worsens IBD
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects nearly three million people in the United States. An imbalance of the gut microbiome can cause painful and sometimes chronic stomach ailments. Research shows that a problem with your gut may actually start with a problem in your mouth. According to University of Michigan researchers, poor oral hygiene can make a person’s IBD worse.
Research reveals two ways bacteria from a patient’s mouth can travel into the gut, causing more inflammation. Researcher Nobuhiko Kamada says there is growing evidence that people with IBD have an overabundance of foreign bacteria in their intestines. This bacteria, Camada, usually starts in the human mouth.
According to scientists, gum disease creates an imbalance in the oral microbiome. These bacteria cause both inflammation and pain, which then travel down into the intestines. The process did not trigger IBD, but exacerbated symptoms in mice with colon inflammation, the researchers said. “In mice with IBD, healthy gut bacteria are disrupted, weakening their ability to fight disease-causing bacteria from the mouth,” Kamada explains.
The team also says periodontitis is actually the body’s own immune system damaging the gut. Heme disease causes the immune system to react, sending T cells into the mouth to fight the infection. In a healthy gut, inflammatory and regulatory T cells work in harmony and learn how to tolerate local bacteria. According to the researchers, gum disease often triggers an inflammatory T-cell response. Those cells eventually travel to the intestines, disrupting the natural balance and causing disease.
READ MORE: A Brush for Your Gut! Doctors say poor oral hygiene can make IBD worse
Strong association with high blood pressure
What does swollen and bleeding teeth have to do with high blood pressure? Probably more than you expect. Research shows that people who struggle with toothache are more likely to suffer from hypertension.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death worldwide, affecting 30% to 45% of the population. Similarly, inflammation of the gums, connective tissue, and supporting bones affects more than half of the world’s population. Doctors say it’s no coincidence that so many people struggle with both conditions.
Past studies have suggested a link between the two disorders. For the study, scientists collected data from 81 studies conducted in 26 countries. They tried to determine how high blood pressure was in patients with moderate and severe cases of gum disease. The results show that patients with periodontitis have higher arterial blood pressure — an average of 4.5 mm Hg. systolic (contraction) and diastolic (resting) blood pressure 2 mm Hg. above.
While this may seem like a small number, researchers say that a 5 mm Hg increase in blood pressure increases the risk of death from a heart attack or stroke by 25%. Overall, the authors estimated that the odds of having hypertension were 22% higher for patients with moderate to severe periodontitis and 49% higher for patients with severe periodontitis.
READ MORE: Gum disease linked to high blood pressure, study finds
Gum disease associated with Alzheimer’s disease
Research shows that brushing your teeth twice a day not only cleans your teeth, but also helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway have found the gingivitis-causing bacteria — P. gingivalis — in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and believe it increases the likelihood of the disease progressing. According to the authors, enzymes produced by the bacteria, called gingipain, destroy nerve cells in the brain and cause memory loss before developing into Alzheimer’s disease.
For the study, scientists collected 53 people with Alzheimer’s disease and found bacteria in the brains of 96% of the participants. Although bacteria do not cause Alzheimer’s by themselves, researchers say they play a large role in its development and may cause it to progress more quickly.
Piotr Midel, a researcher at the University’s Department of Clinical Science and co-author of the study, says: “We have proven that the bacteria that cause gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain based on DNA.”
READ MORE: Brushing your teeth twice a day can help prevent Alzheimer’s, study finds
As always, check with your dentist and doctor about oral hygiene or any health concerns listed in this article.