People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from gum disease, probably because people with diabetes are more prone to infections. However the relationship works both ways. It seems that diabetics with gum disease have more problems controlling their blood sugar and more diabetic complications. This is because gum disease increases inflammatory factors in the body and bloodstream, which in turn increases blood sugar.
Gum disease has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and to exacerbate existing heart conditions. It is also thought that oral infections may increase the risk of stroke.
Researchers have found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.
Current thinking based on scientific findings is that you can acquire bacterial respiratory tract infections by inhalation of fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs, or the upper respiratory tract. These droplets contain bacteria that originate in the mouth. Once in the lungs, these bacteria can breed and multiply to cause infection such as pneumonia. Further research is being carried out in this area.
There may also be a relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease. If inflammation from bacteria in the mouth somehow fuels inflammation in the joints, one might reason that clearing up the periodontal disease would also help prevent or treat RA. One small study suggests that may be the case. In a study of 40 people with both RA and periodontal disease, researchers at Case Western University School of Dental Medicine and University found that those who received non-surgical treatments for their gum disease reported significantly more improvement in their RA symptoms than those who received treatment for RA only. This again is an area where further research is being carried out.
It seems every year or two we dentists are hearing about another disease of the body that may have a connection to gum disease. Your health is priceless. So keep up the healthy diet, brushing and interdental cleaning, and visits to your dentist and hygienist. It may have more benefits than you could ever have thought!
Catch my next blog for more on how your health can really suffer as a result of poor nutrition if you lose too many teeth as you get older.