Dental & Oral Health

Does Gum Disease Affect Your Overall Health?

Written by
Dr. Avinash Bettahalli
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on May 03, 2014 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  2 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Tooth decay and missing teeth can prevent proper chewing ability and thereby affect digestion of food, but gum diseases can result in much more serious effects on one’s general health. This article aims to educate about the effects of gum/dental health on general health.

Does Gum Disease Affect Your Overall Health?

Dental diseases can be broadly classified as tooth decay and gum disease and both of these diseases results from bacteria. Gum diseases are generally referred to as gingivitis and periodontitis. The term gingivitis means inflammation of the gums and periodontitis suggests inflammation and destruction of the structures which support the teeth including bone around teeth.

Gum disease and tooth decay have ill effects not only on the oral health but also are harmful to 'overall health'. Tooth decay and missing teeth can prevent proper chewing ability and thereby affect digestion of food, but gum diseases can result in much more serious effects on one’s general health.

Gum Disease and Overall Health

Gum disease can have negative impact on overall health of the body, but many people including many dentists and physicians still believe that its effects are limited only to the oral cavity. In recent years many researchers have shown that gum disease can contribute to and increase the risk and severity of:

  • Heart problems
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Preterm low birth weight (premature delivery)

How Does Gum Disease Affect Overall Health?

During gum disease various chemical mediators are released by our body in response to the bacterial infection. These chemical mediators are primarily intended to facilitate the process of removal of bacteria, but along with its primary function it can also do damage to our own body.

Cardiovascular Disease (heart disease):

The chemical mediators produced by our body during gum disease, along with other risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as smoking, high cholesterol etc. helps in the formation of atheroma(narrowing of blood vessels) in coronary artery (arteries which supply blood to the heart muscles). When the blood vessels get narrowed there is insufficient supply of blood to the heart muscles thereby it results in heart problem. If this narrowing occurs in the arteries of brain, it may result in Stroke.

Diabetes:

The chemical mediators also have an effect on blood glucose level. In a known diabetic patients these mediators increase the cell resistance to insulin, thereby the glucose will not be utilized by the cells, which results in increased blood glucose level. Numerous studies have shown that after treating the gum disease the patients were able to keep their blood glucose level under control.

Preterm Low Birth Weight:

We all know that premature babies suffer from lot of diseases later in their life. Causes for premature delivery may be many, but can gum disease be one of the causes? Any infection in the body produces numerous chemical mediators in the body. Some of these chemical mediators such as prostaglandins, when secreted in excess can induce preterm labour. Gum disease being an infectious disease also increases the prostaglandins in the systemic circulation which may induce preterm labour.

Respiratory Disease:

Though very rare and very few studies support the relationship between gum disease and respiratory disease, it is possible when the bacteria present in mouth is aspirated in to the lungs, it can result in respiratory diseases like pneumonia.

Prevention & Treatment:

Early detection of the gum disease and thorough treatment can minimize the systemic effects of the gum disease. The treatment generally includes scaling and root debridement (cleaning of teeth and root portions of the teeth) and in severe conditions periodontal flap surgeries (gum surgeries) will be required. The earlier the detection of gum disease, the lesser the complications caused by it and simpler the treatment.

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  2 min read

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