If you’ve been to the dentist recently or even browsed the oral hygiene aisle at the supermarket, chances are you’ve heard of gum disease – and you know it’s something you don’t want in your mouth.
What you may not know is just how much gum disease can put your general health at considerable risk. There are some pretty shocking links between poor oral health and the health of the rest of your body.
The Tie Between Gum Disease and Chronic Diseases
At its core, gum disease is an inflammatory condition caused by bacterial infection. Mild inflammation is called gingivitis and is usually relatively easy to reverse. Unaddressed, gingivitis can progress into full-blown advanced periodontal disease that can result in severe consequences for your teeth, gums, and overall health.
There is strong evidence to suggest that chronic gum disease can worsen other types of inflammatory diseases, including heart and lung diseases, as well as diabetes.
Because there is such an overload of bacteria present in the mouth with gum disease, it is inevitable that some of these bacteria will make its way to other parts of the body. They may settle in, on, or around organs that are already compromised due to inflammation, causing yet– more inflammation.
In conditions where inflammation already compromises the immune system and makes infection difficult to fight, such as with diabetes, the added stress of gum disease can wreak a special kind of havoc. One disease complicates the other and vice versa, making all symptoms much worse, much faster.
A Real Threat of Disability or Death
While it is unlikely that gum disease itself will kill you unless it leads to a severe abscess that goes untreated, it can contribute to life-threatening medical emergencies.
The same inflammatory response to toxins and bacteria that can exacerbate existing conditions can also create a perfect storm for a major cardiac event or stroke.
Inflammation causes arteries to narrow, which increases blood pressure, along with the risk of blood clots. It’s really only a matter of time before something goes terribly wrong.
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
Pregnant mothers who have gum disease face a substantial risk for preterm labor, which can create serious concerns for both mother and child.
Low birth weight and underdeveloped lungs are just a couple of the potential complications for the child. Inflammation in the body can also make recovery for the mother slower and more difficult.
Since pregnancy itself can often put a woman at an increased risk for developing gum disease, this is a particularly important time to keep up with regular hygiene appointments.
A Quick Fix
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in all of this is how easy it is to prevent gum disease altogether. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can stop gum disease in its tracks and avoid all of the unnecessary complications that come with it.
If you are not sure of the best way to prevent gum disease, ask your dentist or dental hygienist to show you proper oral care techniques. It only takes a few minutes per day and can prevent a lifetime of oral and general health issues.