Between 20 and 50% of individuals worldwide are affected by gum disorders, making it one of the most prevalent chronic human diseases. They develop when plaque, a bacterial film that sticks to teeth, accumulates. Gum disease is curable and reversible in its early stages (gingivitis). However, some patients experience an untreatable, chronic form of gum disease. The illness eventually results in tooth loss. An increasing body of research demonstrates that gum disease can increase a person’s risk of developing other major health issues.
Here are a few of the typical health issues and how they are related to gum disease.
Alzheimer’s condition: It has been established via numerous major research and meta-analyses that dementia is significantly linked to moderate to severe gum disease. For instance, one study found that people with chronic gum disease for ten years or longer had a 70% higher risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s than people without the condition. Additionally, studies have linked gum disease to a six-fold reduction in cognitive function.
At first, it was assumed that this connection was solely caused by bacteria. P. gingivalis, a bacterium linked to chronic gum disease, was discovered in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease victims. Additionally, harmful bacterial enzymes known as gingipains were discovered, which are likely to exacerbate gum disease by delaying the cessation of the immune response and thereby extending inflammation.
The connection between the two may be explained by germs in the brain, a changed immune response, or other elements, such as harm from systemic inflammation. But one strategy to lower your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease may be to take good care of your oral health.
A cardiovascular condition: Gum disease has a strong correlation with cardiovascular disease.
Gum disease was found to increase the risk of a first heart attack by about 30% in big research involving more than 1,600 adults over 60. Even after researchers controlled for other health issues (like diabetes and asthma) or lifestyle factors (including smoking status, education, and marital status) that are known to raise a person’s risk of a heart attack, this association persisted.
Recent studies have also demonstrated that systemic inflammation brought on by persistent gum disease triggers the body’s stem cells to become a hyperactive population of neutrophils (a type of early defense white blood cell). By destroying the cells that line the arteries, these cells may harm the lining of the arteries, leading to the formation of plaque.
Type 2 diabetes: Gum disease is a well-known side effect of type 2 diabetes, and having chronic gum disease raises your risk of getting the condition.
Numerous studies are focusing on the mechanisms that connect the two diseases, and it’s possible that the inflammation brought on by one ailment impacts the other. For instance, type 2 diabetes increases gum inflammation, which increases the risk of gum disease. Gum disease has also been linked to poor insulin signaling, insulin resistance, and other conditions that might worsen type 2 diabetes.
Clinical studies have demonstrated that thorough dental cleanings can help diabetes patients better control their blood sugar for several months, highlighting the connections between the two conditions.
Cancers: The chance of acquiring many different types of cancer is also increased by gum disease. For instance, it was discovered that people with a history of gum disease had a 52% higher risk of stomach cancer and a 43% higher risk of oesophageal cancer. According to another study, those who have chronic gum disease are 14–20% more likely to get cancer of any kind. The risk of pancreatic cancer was also 54% higher, according to the same study.
The purpose of this connection is unclear. Some believe it has to do with inflammation, which has a role in both cancer and gum disease. Inflammation influences the development of both gum disease and tumor growth because it alters the environment that cells require to remain healthy and operate properly.
How to improve gum health: Early on, gum disease is both preventable and treatable.
While some gum disease risk factors (such as your genetics) cannot be changed, you can alter your lifestyle to lower your overall risk. For instance, consuming less sugar, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, and lowering stress are all beneficial. It’s also crucial to be aware that several medications, like some antidepressants and drugs for high blood pressure, may cause a decrease in salivation, which may raise your risk of gum disease.
People who take these medications must take additional precautions, such as using specific gels or sprays to promote salivation or being more cautious when cleaning their teeth.
The most crucial preventative measures for gum disease (and, by extension, for your general health) include brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, avoiding using mouthwash after brushing, and being careful not to rinse your mouth out after brushing so that the fluoride can stay on your teeth. You may maintain good oral health by flossing regularly and performing interdental cleanings at home.