Periodontal disease is another name for gum disease, a condition that seems to begin without any discomfort but that swiftly progresses. Over time, the gums can become red, swollen and irritable. They may begin to bleed whenever they are brushed or flossed, and they may also start to recede, which can open up the teeth to great sensitivity. Without proper treatment, periodontal disease may progress to the point where teeth become loose and even fall out, leading to difficulties with speech and eating. However, it may surprise you to know that gum disease can affect much more of your body than simply your gums and teeth.
The Science Behind Gum Health
Much research has shown that gum disease can affect you systemically, meaning that it can travel throughout the body, harming other systems. One of the most concerning aspects of gum disease is its link to cardiovascular disease. This seems to be mainly due to the link between gum disease and inflammation. Inflammation is more than just a small area of swelling. Instead, when your body is inflamed, it affects the chemicals in the blood known as prostaglandins and interleukins, which can travel to other areas. Inflammation in the blood vessels and in the heart can lead to heart disease and arteriosclerosis. Over time, such symptoms as shortness of breath and chest pain may become noticeable. Some people have even suffered strokes and heart attacks due to these high inflammatory levels.
Periodontal disease may also be tied to diabetes. Once again, you may be able to blame the inflammatory agents in your blood for this. While research is not clear on exactly how the two are tied together, research shows that those with diabetes have a higher likelihood of having gum disease. Plus, your risk for overall infections skyrockets when you have both diabetes and gum disease.
Gum disease may also increase your risk of developing dementia as you age. Periodontal issues can eventually lead to memory issues and reduced quality of life. Once again, the tie between the two is there, but researchers are not quite sure of the exact relationship between the two.
Periodontal disease may also be tied to autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.