Taking care of oral hygiene not only involves taking care of your teeth but also making sure that the gums are healthy. Gum diseases usually occur when there is an accumulation of plaque and calculus (hard tar-like material) on the teeth, covering most of the gums.
These deposits lead to inflammation of the gums, resulting in tenderness and frequent bleeding. If this condition worsens, the bone under the gums, which supports the teeth, starts depleting. This condition is called periodontitis, where the teeth start wobbling.
But gum diseases are not only harmful to the teeth but are also associated with various other health conditions.
Gum disease may lead to heart disease
Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria found in periodontitis, is one of the leading causes of infective endocarditis as it is known to be responsible for about 31% of the total cases. Infective endocarditis is an infection which affects the heart valves and endocardium (inner layer of the heart) which occurs when the infection-causing bacteria enters the bloodstream and infects the heart. Some studies have also indicated that the inflammation induced during periodontitis can also result in atherosclerosis (blockage of the blood-carrying arteries).
Gum disease may increase the risk of cancer
Studies have shown that periodontitis can increase the risk of oesophageal and gastric cancer. The study published in the journal Gut examined 98,459 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, which was conducted from the year 1992 to 2014 and 49,685 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which was conducted from the year 1988 to 2016. The researchers assessed dental health, lifestyle, and diet of app participants with the help of questionnaires. After 22 to 28 years of follow-ups, the scientists found that out of all these people 199 people got diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and 238 got diagnosed with gastric cancer.
The scientists found that most of these cancers were found in people who had a history of periodontal disease. The study concluded that periodontitis increased the risk of oesophageal cancer and gastric cancer by 43% and 52%, respectively.
Gum disease may lead to a respiratory disorder
The bacteria present in the oral cavity of people with periodontal disease can be aspirated into the lungs which may lead to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Studies have shown that respiratory disease-causing bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae can form their infective colonies between the back of the mouth and throat (oropharynx).
Gum disease can stimulate rheumatoid arthritis
According to an article published by Johns Hopkins University’s Division of Rheumatology, a bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is known to cause chronic inflammatory gum infections, can trigger the inflammatory autoimmune response which is also seen in the patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is a chronic autoimmune disease which causes severe inflammation in the joints, making them painful and swollen. Periodontal disease is seen in almost all cases of rheumatoid arthritis.
Gum diseases may double the risk of stroke
At the International Stroke Conference 2020, scientists from the American Stroke Association stated that gum disease (periodontitis) is linked to a higher rate of strokes. Strokes can either be caused due to a blocked artery or a blood vessel leaking or bursting.
For more information, read our article on Gum disease (Periodontitis).
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