Your oral health might seem like it’s completely unrelated to your overall health, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. More and more research is proving that there’s a clear link between your oral health and your overall health. This is particularly relevant when it comes to the systemic link between periodontitis and heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Although the two conditions are associated, that does not mean that one might cause the other. For example, studies show that people who have gum disease tend to experience heart disease, diabetes, and stroke at a higher rate, but that incidence could also be associated with lifestyle factors.
Periodontal disease progresses in three stages. As you progress through each stage the symptoms get progressively worse. This disease is characterized by the decay of the gums, ligaments, and roots that hold your teeth in your jaw bone.
This disease is primarily a result of bad oral hygiene. This means that if you don’t brush twice a day, floss once a day, visit the dentist regularly, and eat a poor diet, you’re putting yourself at risk for developing the disease.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. It’s characterized by red gums that bleed when brushed or flossed. This bleeding and inflammation cause pain, as well as bad breath. At this stage, periodontal disease can be reversed. Reversal starts with visiting the dentist, getting your teeth cleaned, and starting a routine that includes brushing and flossing.
Stage two of periodontal disease is irreversible and is marked by loose teeth and extremely bad breath. Although the disease is irreversible at this stage, you can manage it through a thorough oral hygiene routine, scaling and root planing (actually removing infected dentin from your tooth’s surface), and a regimen of antibiotics to eliminate the infection.
In the third stage of periodontitis, a person’s teeth are falling out and the infection is so widespread that it can infect the jawbone and sinuses. As the infection spreads you are at risk for a systemic infection. The only way to treat this stage is to remove the infected teeth, eliminate the infection, and replace lost teeth with prosthetics to restore function to the mouth.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Significant research suggests there’s a strong link between heart disease and gum disease. While the cause and effect have not been established, it’s clear that having periodontal disease does increase your risk of developing or exaggerate currently existing heart disease. This is because it’s thought that the inflammation caused by periodontitis leads to heart inflammation.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
The relationship between gum disease and diabetes is the reverse of that between gum disease and heart disease. With periodontitis and diabetes, it’s believed that patients with diabetes are more prone to developing gum disease. Diabetes decreases a person’s ability to fight infection, which is why individuals with diabetes are at a greater risk of getting heart disease.
Recent research has shown that gum disease can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, which ultimately increases complications for those with diabetes.