Facts About Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a very serious disease that can result in tooth loss, but it is generally painless, so you might not know you even have it.
Preventing Periodontal Disease
Of course, prevention is always the best bet. Prevention starts with establishing a routine of daily brushing and flossing and a professional periodontal cleaning at least twice a year – or more often, if your mouth readily forms dental plaque. Keep in mind that early stages of periodontal disease often produce no symptoms.
Heart and Periodontal Disease
All other things being equal, people with periodontal disease are one and a half to two times as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and nearly three times as likely to suffer a stroke as those without this oral disease. The association with heart disease is especially strong in people under 50. Studies have indicated that chronic oral infections can foster the development of clogged arteries and blood clots. Substances produced by oral bacteria that enter the bloodstream can precipitate a chain of reactions that result in a build-up of arterial deposits. And several common oral bacteria can initiate the formation of blood clots and disrupt cardiac function.
Diabetes and Periodontal Disease
It has long been known that diabetes predisposes people to bacterial infections, including infections of oral tissues. But recent studies strongly indicate that periodontitis can make diabetes worse. Diabetic patients with severe periodontitis have greater difficulty maintaining normal blood sugar levels, and treatment of periodontitis often results in a reduced need for insulin. Experts now urge that periodontal inflammation be treated and eliminated in all people with diabetes, especially since such treatment may reduce the risk of injury to the retina and arteries that is a common consequence of diabetes.
Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease
It has long been know that infections of the pelvic organs can precipitate premature labor and the birth of small babies. Infections lead to high levels of substances like prostaglandin E-2 that can induce labor. There is increasing evidence that oral infections, too, can induce premature labor. Periodontal bacteria produce molecules that also prompt the release of labor-inducing substances like prostaglandin. One small study found that mothers of prematurely born small babies were seven times more likely to have advanced periodontal disease as mothers whose babies were normal weight at birth, even though all mothers in the study were not otherwise at risk of having a premature baby.
Respiratory and Periodontal Disease
Bacterial pneumonia results when bacteria that live in the mouth and throat are inhaled into the lungs where immune defenses fail to wipe them out. Several agents that cause pneumonia can thrive in infected oral tissues of people with periodontal disease. And, other respiratory diseases, like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, may be worsened by oral infections when the invading bacteria are inhaled.