3 Medical Conditions Linked To Gum Disease

Gum disease is a serious dental condition that causes swelling, redness, and bleeding of the gums. As it advances, gum disease also contributes to bad breath, receding gums, and the formation of pockets that trap food particles and bacteria. In the most severe cases, gum disease can even cause loose teeth or tooth loss. All of these problems are serious, but they are not the only consequences of gum disease. The condition can also affect your overall health, increasing your risk for stroke, heart disease, and other serious conditions. To prevent these problems, get regular dental exams and make sure you brush and floss your teeth regularly.

1. Heart Disease

People with gum disease have an increased risk of developing heart disease. Doctors and dentists do not know the exact cause of this relationship, but many believe it is due to the inflammation caused by gum disease. When food particles and microorganisms are trapped in pockets between the gums and teeth, the immune system responds by initiating the inflammatory process. If gum disease is not treated quickly, the inflammation becomes chronic, which contributes to the development of plaque on the walls of the arteries. If a piece of plaque breaks off the arterial wall, the cholesterol and other substances inside of it quickly mix with blood, causing a blood clot to form. The formation of a clot can lead to a stroke or heart attack, making regular visits to a dental clinic an important part of every adult's healthcare plan.

2. Cancer

Gum disease is also linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. Although the link between the two conditions is not entirely understood, some researchers believe that inflammation plays a central role. In a large study of more than 48,000 men, the overall risk of cancer was 14% higher in men with gum disease than in men without gum disease. Known as the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the study included men between the ages of 40 and 75. These men had an even higher risk of developing certain types of cancer; for example, men with a history of gum disease had a 49% higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

In addition to studying cancer risk, researchers involved in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study looked into whether certain factors make men more likely to develop heart disease and problems with the blood vessels, both of which are associated with gum disease. An increased risk of cancer was especially common in men with gum disease who also used tobacco, so quitting cigarettes, chew, and other forms of tobacco can lessen your risk.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is not caused by gum disease, but gum disease can make the condition more difficult to manage. If gum disease is left untreated, or it is not treated quickly, diabetics are more likely to have difficulty managing their blood sugar, which can cause fatigue, unexplained weight loss, extreme thirst, blurry vision, and a host of other complications. Persistently high blood sugar levels increase the risk for nerve damage, kidney failure, and organ damage. In the most severe cases, it can even lead to coma or death. If you have diabetes, visit a dentist regularly to prevent gum disease, and to avoid these diabetes complications.

Preventive dental care is essential for keeping your teeth and gums healthy, and it can even help you avoid heart disease, some types of cancer, and complications of diabetes. If you have not seen a dentist recently, make an appointment today.