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4 Unexpected Dangers of Gum Disease

July 30, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — drpatrick @ 6:07 pm

receding gums with tartar

You may have heard about gum disease – a bacterial infection in the gum tissue that causes swelling, bleeding, red, and tender gums. If left untreated for long enough, it may even result in tooth loss! However, there are more consequences to gum disease, also called periodontal disease, than we first thought. Read more to learn 4 surprising things that can happen when you don’t seek out gum disease therapy for your condition.

1. Brain Problems

The gums may be close to the brain, but you wouldn’t normally associate the two together. However, the link has been established. One study found that as people get older and lose cognitive function, their gum health generally decreases. A strand of bacteria commonly found in periodontal disease has also been discovered in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients.

2. Heart Disease

The most popular theory explaining this correlation has to do with inflammation, which is a protective mechanism against pathogens, like the bacteria characteristic of gum disease. It’s theorized that inflammation in the gums sets off a chain reaction of inflammation throughout the body, eventually leading to the heart. The link may also be due to the bacteria themselves. When they attack the gum tissue, they create pockets in between the teeth and gums that allow them to access the bloodstream and travel to the heart, causing infection.

3. Lung Issues

Inflammation may also explain the link between lung problems such as pneumonia and periodontal disease. Furthermore, bacteria in the mouth may be directly breathed into the lungs and wreak havoc. One study even found an increased risk in patients with gum disease and those who contracted lung cancer.

4. Cancer Risk

On the surface, gum disease and cancer don’t appear to have very much in common. However, studies have found a small yet still significant link between the two. An enzyme produced by a certain kind of bacteria associated with gum disease appears commonly in tumors of the gastrointestinal system.

How to Prevent Gum Disease

By preventing periodontal disease, you can keep your general health in good condition by avoiding the illnesses listed above. Follow these steps to keep your gums in great shape:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste to clean your teeth twice a day
  • Floss once a day
  • Eat a healthy diet with little sugar
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and checkup

Gum disease is awful by itself, but it can result in numerous other health issues that you don’t want. Adhere to the steps listed above to keep periodontal disease at bay.

About the Author

Dr. J. Benjamin Patrick received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association and has nearly 40 years’ experience treating patients in the Athens, GA area. To learn more about preventing and treating gum disease, contact the doctor at (706) 546-8720.

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