Gum Disease Can Impact More Than Just Your Oral Health

Periodontal, or gum disease, is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the United States. While the loss of your teeth can lead to considerable problems with your oral health, gum disease has also been linked to some fairly serious health issues, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here at Mayer Dental Care, under the experienced direction of Dr. Wendy Mayer, we want our patients on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan to have the tools they need for good health — dental and otherwise. To that end, we believe that education and awareness are key, which is why we’ve pulled together the following information on the effects of unchecked gum disease. (And, yes, we also want to provide you with a little more incentive to keep those gums in shape!)

Gum disease 101

To better understand how gum disease can have a widespread impact on your health, it’s helpful to review what we’re dealing with. In its earliest stages, gum disease is known as gingivitis, a condition in which bacteria start to gather in the plaque around your gums, causing inflammation.

Left untreated, gingivitis can quickly turn into periodontitis, which means that bacteria have invaded up under your gumline, forcing your tissue to separate from your teeth, leaving pockets where more bacteria can fester.

This bacteria can turn from your soft tissue to your teeth and bone, which is what leads to tooth loss as the structural support in your teeth, quite literally, gets eaten away.

Once these harmful bacteria have taken hold, they can have a more systemic effect as they enter your bloodstream.

Gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease

Earlier this year, a study was released that had the medical world buzzing. The study unearthed a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease through the presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis, the primary pathogen in chronic periodontitis, in the brain tissues of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers also found the presence of gingipains, which are toxic enzymes produced by the bacteria found in gum disease. 

While this is just an early study, the fact that the same pathogens that are associated with gum disease also showed up with alarming regularity among Alzheimer’s patients implies a connection.

Gum disease and diabetes

The connection between gum disease and diabetes is more complicated, representing a two-way street. Because diabetics have difficulty regulating glucose levels in their blood, their immune systems are compromised and they have a tougher time fighting off a bacterial infection once it takes hold. 

But the presence of gum disease may also impact how your body regulates your blood sugar, exacerbating your diabetes.

Gum disease and your heart

The connection between gum disease and your heart health is a fuzzier one. Some researchers posit that when bacteria from gum disease enter your bloodstream, it can lead to problems like plaque buildup in your blood vessels. More research needs to be conducted before we’re comfortable saying that there’s a direct link.

The earlier the better

The bottom line is that there’s no upside to gum disease, for your dental health or your overall health, which is reason enough to tackle the problem at the first signs. In fact, if we detect a problem during the early stages — gingivitis — a professional cleaning is often enough to remedy the issue.

Even if your gum disease has advanced to periodontitis, steps can be taken to eliminate the pockets in your gums and clean out the bacteria, which is called a scaling and root planing procedure.

If you suspect your gums may be in trouble, call us at (212) 246-2398 so we can quickly intervene and prevent any further health complications from developing. Or you can use our convenient online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.

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