1. Home
  2. Periodontal Therapy
  3. The Hidden Dangers

The Hidden Dangers of Periodontal Disease: the Reason We Approach Dentistry Holistically

Periodontal disease doesn’t only affect your mouth.  It also affects affects entire body.  The pathogenic bacteria found in periodontitis travels from your mouth to your organs through the bloodstream.  If left untreated, it can lead to debilitating conditions such as permanent bone loss and brain damage.  And in some cases, death.

We’ll be covering how periodontal disease may affect four health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy, and osteoporosis):

1. Heart Disease and periodontal disease

People with periodontitis are twice more likely to suffer from heart disease and strokes than those with healthy gums.  The reason is simple: periodontal bacteria travel from your mouth to your bloodstream, and they attach to plaque in your arteries.  This triggers inflammation and clot formations, which can lead to heart attacks.

Inflammation from periodontal disease is caused by an increase in white blood cells and C-reactive proteins (CRP).  CRP has long been associated with heart disease.  When CRP increases, your body’s inflammatory response activates.  Periodontal bacteria in the bloodstream causes your liver to produce CRP.  Eventually, this leads to inflamed arteries and blood clots.  Inflammation can cause the walls of your blood vessels to become sticky, which develops atherosclerotic plaque.  This narrows the diameters of your blood vessels, increasing your risk of vessel blockage.

Proper periodontal care can help save your life.

2. Diabetes and periodontal disease

Compared to non-diabetics, people with diabetes are more susceptible to periodontal disease.  High blood glucose levels can damage the lining of your small vessels, impeding blood circulation.  Poor blood circulation allows for bacteria to colonize and grow.  Also, diabetes weakens the immune system that fight infection.

When periodontal disease worsens, it often elevates blood sugar levels.  Diabetics with periodontitis are much more likely to experience a difficulty of managing their blood sugar levels.  Saliva with high sugar levels further promotes the bacterial growth, which worsens periodontitis.

Diabetes also thickens blood vessels.  This compromises the transport of nutrients and waste products from your body.  With thickening blood vessels, much more waste products are left in the mouth, exposing gum tissue to further infection.

That is why it is even more important for diabetic patients to maintain excellent oral hygiene and also check with their dentist for preventive periodontal care.

3. Pregnancy and periodontal disease

When a woman is pregnant, she knows it’s vital to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure both the health of herself and of her baby.  Clinical recommendations from the American Academy of Periodontology urge pregnant mothers to maintain periodontal health as well.  Several research studies have suggested that women with untreated periodontal disease exposes them to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as pre-term birth or low-birth weight babies.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies with a birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds may be at risk of long-term health problems such as delayed motor skills, social growth, and learning disabilities.  Similar complications for babies born at least three weeks premature.

It is common during pregnancy for a mother’s gums to develop gingivitis (inflammation) and bleed.  Increased levels of estrogen due to pregnancy lends to a shift in oral bacteria type to those that are more pathogenic.  Treating inflammation and periodontal disease tailored for pregnant women can help reduce the risk of periodontal diseased-related pregnancy complications.

Pregnant women with periodontal disease has increased prostaglandin levels, which is a labor-inducing chemical found in periodontitis.  Increased levels of prostaglandins can induce premature labor (preeclampsia).  Also, C-reactive protein (CRP) found in periodontitis also can lead to premature birth and low birth weights.  

If you are pregnant and are worried about your periodontal health, schedule an appointment with our dentist so we can quickly address your concerns and provide a customized periodontal treatment plan for you.

4. Osteoporosis and periodontal disease

Research has suggested that a drop in estrogen and testosterone levels contribute to the development of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by loss of bone mineral density, especially in older people.  Post menopausal women who suffer from osteoporosis are 86% more likely to develop periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease in patients with osteoporosis can result in increased jawbone loss, which can lead to tooth loss

Inflammation caused by periodontal disease accelerates the loss of jawbone that’s already compromised by osteoporosis.  Which is why periodontitis should be not be ignored with this condition.  If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, it is imperative you keep your gums free of periodontal disease.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.