Periodontal diseases are the infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, the cementum that covers the root, the periodontal ligament and the alveolar bone. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease, the infection affects only the gums, which is called gingivitis. In more severe forms of the disease, all of the supporting tissues are involved. Bacteria in dental plaque are the major culprits. Overall, periodontal disease affects about 20-50% of the population around the globe.
In recent years, gum disease has been linked to some health problems. But many questions remain to be answered. Studies have produced varying findings about how much of a connection exists between gum disease and other medical problems. More research is needed to substantiate the findings.
Periodontal disease is linked to some other diseases as their risk factor. They have been enumerated below:
Cardiovascular disease – People with periodontal disease are at higher risk of having heart disease. Oral bacteria such as streptococcus gordonii and streptococcus sanguinis are common infecting agents. The researchers found that bacteria from the mouth are able to enter the bloodstream and stick to platelets, which can then form blood clots, interrupting the flow of blood to the heart.
Heart conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease or high cholesterol may result from chronic inflammation caused by periodontal infections.
Stroke – Periodontal disease results from a complex interplay between chronic bacterial infection and the inflammatory response. Some studies have investigated the association between stroke and periodontal disease and found that there exists significant association between them though evidence on the role of periodontal disease in stroke is still limited.
Alzheimer’s disease – New York University dental researchers have found the first long-term evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease in healthy individuals as well as in those, who already are cognitively impaired. The research suggests that cognitively normal subjects with periodontal inflammation are at an increased risk of lower cognitive function compared to cognitively normal subjects with little or no periodontal inflammation.
Pancreatic cancer – A research team from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, were the first to report strong evidence on a link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer back in 2007. The researchers suggest that there may be a link between high levels of carcinogenic compounds found in the mouths of people with gum disease and pancreatic cancer risk. They argue that these compounds – called nitrosamines – may react to the digestive chemicals in the gut in a way that creates an environment favorable to the development of pancreatic cancer.
After making adjustments for age, smoking history, diabetes, obesity, diet and other potentially confounding variables, the researchers could conclude that men with a history of periodontal disease has a 63 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to men without a history of periodontal disease.
Pre-term delivery of low-weight baby – According to American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal bacteria increase a woman’s risk of delivering a pre-term low-birth weight baby.
Basics of oral hygiene –
- Brush teeth twice a day. Take time to do a thorough job.
- Use proper brush. Keep it clean and store in a proper place.
- Practice good technique while brushing.
- Replace the toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles become irregular or frayed.
- Don’t skim on flossing.
- Be gentle.
- Take one tooth at a time.
- If you find it hard to handle floss, use an interdental cleaner such as a dental pick, pre-threaded flosser, tiny brushes that reach between teeth, a water flosser or wooden or silicone plaque remover.
The bottom line –
Since mouth is the gateway to the body, a number of negative health conditions and systemic diseases are now being linked to periodontal disease. It is worth mentioning that periodontal disease is a preventable one and if proper measures are taken one can reduce the risk for a number of very serious health concerns.