Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals alarming findings on the state of gum disease in the United States. In fact, the condition plagues almost 50 percent of America’s adult population.
In the study by CDC entitled Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010, one in every two American 30 and older suffer from periodontitis. Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease.
The figures are far more alarming for the senior population. The prevalence rate of gum disease among adults 65 and older is 70.1 percent.
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is a chronic oral inflammatory disease. It affects the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is classified into gingivitis and periodontitis. The former is a mild form of gum disease, and the latter being a more serious case.
The CDC study further reveals disparities between specific segments of the population. Men are more likely to have gum disease than women. Mexican-Americans are more susceptible to gum disease with a prevalence rate of 66.7 percent.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has also identified risk factors that contribute to periodontal disease. These include smoking, poor oral care, unhealthy eating habits, hormonal changes in women, treatment procedures, medications, diabetes, and genetic susceptibility.
Treating gum disease is imperative. Without treatment, it can cause damage to the bones, gums, and tissues. Moreover, studies suggest that the oral-related disease can cause systemic diseases including cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.
Research has found that individuals with periodontal disease are more prone to suffer heart disease. Inflammation, which is a common sign of gum disease, can harden the arteries — a condition called atherosclerosis. Thus, it can result in difficulty in blood flow.
A disruption of the gum layer can funnel bacteria into the bloodstream. In turn, it can trigger inflammation throughout the body, according to Dr. Thomas Boyden. Jr., a medical director of preventive cardiology at Spectrum Health Medical Group Cardiovascular Services.
Commonly referred to as heart disease, cardiovascular disease can contribute to a heart attack, heart failure, heart valve problems, ischemic stroke, arrhythmia, among others.
Studies have shown that gum disease-causing bacteria like Streptococcus sanguis can cause a stroke as they thicken carotid arteries. Thus, they can distrupt the flow of blood to the brain. These bacteria then spread to the heart, heightening the risk of heart disease.
Meanwhile, another gum disease-causing bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, was found to amplify the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. It was also found to cause an earlier onset of the autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorder. Additionally, it can speed up the progression of its symptoms as mouth inflammation and infection trigger the immune system and the development of inflammation at the joints.
Additionally, researchers at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Center at the New York University Langone Health discovered a link between esophageal cancer and periodontal disease. The same gum disease-causing bacteria, which increases the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, Porphyromanco gingivalis, as well as oral bacteria Tannerella forsythia, increase the likelihood of esophageal cancer by 21 percent.
Moreover, in a study in The Lancet Oncology, men with gum disease recorded a higher risk of cancer than those without it. Those with gum disease pose a higher chance of lung cancer at 36 percent. They also have a prevalence rate of 49 percent for kidney cancer, 54 percent for pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent for white blood cell cancer.
Bad breath, bleeding gums, and redness or inflammation of gums are some symptoms of periodontitis. Likewise, tenderness of gums, abnormal pain when chewing, sensitive and loose teeth, receding gums, and pus coming from the gums are other symptoms.
Gingivitis, a minor form of gum disease, is reversible with proper oral hygiene. Still, attention must be given to the condition to prevent it from leading to a more serious case of periodontal disease or periodontitis. Otherwise, it can lead to tooth loss and affect overall health through a higher risk of systemic illnesses.
Prevention is also highly advisable. One should practice oral care, visit the dentist biannually, eat right, and avoid subjecting the mouth to risk factors like smoking.