You probably know that neglecting your oral hygiene routine can lead to the development of cavities, but you may not realize that neglecting your oral health can affect other parts of your body. In fact, studies have shown that gum disease, or periodontitis, can increase your chance of developing many very serious health problems.
Almost 50% of adults over the age of 30 in the United States suffer from periodontal disease, and about 70% of adults age 65 and older suffer from some form of gum disease — many don't even know it. Since so many adults suffer from gum disease, it is important to visit your dentist every six months for a check-up.
During your check-up, your dentist will examine your gums for the signs of periodontal disease and begin a treatment plan that begins to improve your oral health if any gum disease is discovered.
Read on to learn about four health problems to which gum disease can contribute.
1. Heart Disease
Studies have shown that people with moderate to advanced gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease than those with healthy gums. Specific heart conditions that gum disease can contribute to include endocarditis and atherosclerosis.
Endocarditis is a life-threatening infection of the inner lining of your heart that can be caused by oral bacteria. Endocarditis occurs more frequently in people with damaged heart valves, although people with healthy hearts can also develop it.
Atherosclerosis is a build-up of plaque deposits on artery walls that can lead to a variety of health problems depending on where the plaque deposits build up and restrict blood flow. If plaque builds up on arteries in the heart, it can cause coronary artery disease.
How does gum disease contribute to the development of heart disease? Gum inflammation in gum disease is caused by bacteria. While researchers are unsure of exactly how gum disease can cause heart disease, it is believed that the bacteria present in diseased gums can easily enter your bloodstream, where they then travel to your heart and attach to fat deposits in the blood vessels.
2. Ischemic Stroke
Gum disease can contribute to ischemic stroke when the plaque deposits on artery walls restrict blood flow so much that blood clots form. These blood clots can then become lodged in the brain, causing a stroke that can lead to brain damage.
3. Pancreatic Cancer
Medical researchers have found that advanced gum disease, also called periodontitis, may also increase a person's of developing pancreatic cancer. A study revealed that men who suffered from periodontitis or who had suffered from it at some time in the past had a 64% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The reason is unclear, although it is believed to be due to the chronic inflammation in your body that an infection like gum disease can cause.
4. Head and Neck Cancers
Many studies have shown that oral inflammation caused by gum disease can contribute to the development of oral cancer. However, periodontal disease is also associated with many more forms of head and neck cancer, such as cancer of the throat; cancer of the larynx, or voice box; cancer of the sinuses and nasal cavity; and cancer of the salivary glands.
Periodontitis causes loss of bone tissue under gums, and it was found that the chance of developing head or neck cancer quadruples every time 1 mm of bone tissue is lost to periodontitis.
While it is important to follow a good oral hygiene routine for the sake of your oral health, a healthy mouth also leads to a healthy body. Visit Fox Dental Associates for a full dental check-up and gum disease screening.