Gum disease is a prevalent condition that, without proper care, can cause tooth loss. You probably already knew that much. But did you know that gum disease is now suspected to be linked to other serious health problems?
Gum disease is caused when plaque, a sticky substance containing bacteria builds up on teeth. Without the correct oral hygiene routine, these bacteria will quickly irritate and infect the gums, causing them to become swollen, sore and to begin bleeding.
The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and is entirely reversible. However, without prompt care, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis which gradually weakens and destroys the structures supporting your teeth including your gums, bone, and periodontal ligaments holding your teeth in their sockets. The mechanisms causing periodontal disease are extensively researched, but now numerous studies are showing a possible link with other serious health problems like Alzheimer’s.
How Is Gum Disease Linked with Alzheimer’s?
Some studies have discovered a connection between tooth loss caused by periodontal disease and cognitive function. Also, researchers have linked an increased buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain, which is a neurological sign of Alzheimer’s, with periodontal disease.
Other clinical studies have shown that a specific bacterium found in periodontitis called Porphyromonas gingivalis is also present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The presence of this bacterium boosts the production of beta-amyloid in the brain. The bacterium secretes a toxic enzyme called Gingipains and animal testing has confirmed it can destroy brain neurons. In one study Gingipains were found in 96% of the brain tissue samples from Alzheimer’s patients.
Mechanisms causing periodontal disease are extensively researched, but now numerous studies are showing a possible link with other serious health problems like Alzheimer’s.
Then, there are the possible links with heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
Connecting Gum Disease with Heart Disease
Although people with gum disease won’t necessarily have heart disease and vice versa, there does appear to be a connection. Of course, risk factors such as smoking or drinking to excess can both cause cardiovascular and oral health problems, but the link with gum disease appears to be significant. Whether periodontal disease could be an independent risk factor for heart disease is still under discussion, but there are some interesting theories as to how the two diseases could be connected.
One possible link is inflammation, and that inflammation in the gums sparks a cascade response, eventually causing inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Another theory is that the connection is due to bacteria. When you have gum disease, your gums bleed, allowing mouth bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, these bacteria may end up being propelled just about anywhere in the body, including your heart, where they can cause inflammation that damages the heart. Interestingly, it has been discovered that Porphyromonas gingivalis is the most commonly found species of bacteria in the coronary artery.
It’s Worth Taking Gum Disease Very Seriously
Scientists are still learning more about gum disease and its possible effects on general health, and we feel it is definitely a disease that deserves be taken seriously. According to the Canadian Dental Association, seven out of ten Canadians will develop some degree of gum disease during their lifetime.
Although gum disease is common, it is preventable, which is why we strongly suggest our patients schedule twice yearly visits with us here at Bel Canto. Often, the earliest signs of gum disease are overlooked or ignored, but this is the very stage when gum disease is most easily reversed, usually by having your teeth cleaned professionally and improving your oral care routine.
By visiting us regularly, we can closely monitor your gum health, protecting your oral and overall health. Make an appointment today for a professional cleaning and inspection.