We all know brushing and flossing are necessary for maintaining optimum oral health. But not everyone understands that failing to maintain proper oral hygiene can have serious consequences for our overall health, including the increased risk of certain cancers associated with gum disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, 47.2% of adults age 30 and over have some form of gum disease. For adults 65 and over, that number increases dramatically to 70.1%. These numbers are of particular concern because of links between gum disease and more serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and esophageal and gastric cancer.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the warning signs of gum disease?
Gum disease is the result of infection and inflammation caused by bacteria in the mouth. When left untreated, the inflammation causes the gums and bone structure to deteriorate, which can lead to oral health complications. The signs and symptoms of gum disease include:
- Swollen gums
- Tender gums
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Bad breath
Smoking, poor diet, genetics, and poor oral hygiene can all increase the risk of developing periodontal disease.
How is gum disease linked to serious health problems?
Periodontal disease is a persistent infection of the gums. The bacteria present in gum disease can travel to different parts of the body, triggering inflammation and infection, and significantly increasing the risk of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Researchers are still working to understand the exact connections between gum disease and specific health problems, but generally systemic inflammation and infection play a role.
- Diabetes – Research shows a distinct relationship between gum disease and diabetes: the elevated blood sugar levels in those with diabetes increase the risk of developing gum disease because it diminishes the body’s ability to fight off the bacteria. Conversely, gum disease can also contribute to higher levels of blood glucose.
- Heart disease and stroke – Scientists suspect that the bacteria associated with gum disease triggers inflammation in the arteries, which causes the blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow and increasing the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions.
The links between gum disease and esophageal and gastric cancers
In a long-term study involving nearly 150,000 men and women, researchers examined possible links between periodontal disease with tooth loss and gastric and esophageal cancers. In a 22-28-year follow up, they discovered 199 cases of esophageal cancer and 238 cases of gastric cancer. The results of this preliminary research suggests that a history of gum disease with tooth loss increases in the risk of developing esophageal cancer by 43% and gastric cancer by 52%. Further research is still needed to confirm and understand the connections, but early theories involve periodontal pathogens and poor oral hygiene.
This does not mean that every person with gum disease will develop cancer, but it does serve as an important reminder that gum disease is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health in the long-term.
At San Diego Periodontics, we can help you maintain optimum oral health
With proper oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings, you can prevent, stop, or even reverse the symptoms of gum disease. Brushing and flossing regularly helps remove plaque and food particles, which in turn keeps the oral bacteria down. Regular visits to San Diego Periodontics will help identify and treat early symptoms before they cause more serious health complications. If you have bleeding gums, red tender gums, bad breath, or loose teeth, you may have periodontal disease. We can help.
Give us a call today at (619) 543-0905 to schedule an appointment or a consultation.