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Gum Disease That Affects 50 Percent Of American Adults Can Cause Systemic Diseases

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed alarming findings on the state of gum disease in the United States that plagues almost 50 percent of America’s adult population.

In the study conducted by CDC entitled Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010, one in every two American adults aged 30 and above suffer from the advanced form of periodontal disease called periodontitis.

The figures are far more alarming for the senior population as the prevalence rate of gum disease among adults aged 65 and older was recorded at 70.1 percent.

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease which affects the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is classified into gingivitis and periodontitis with the former being a mild form of gum disease and the latter being a more advanced 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 compared to other races with their prevalence rate of 66.7 percent.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has also identified risk factors that contribute to the development of periodontal disease including smoking, poor oral care, unhealthy eating habits, hormonal changes in women, treatment procedures, medication, diabetes, and genetic susceptibility.

Treating gum disease is imperative as, when left untreated, it can cause damage to the bones, gums, and tissues. Moreover, studies have suggested that the oral-related disease can cause systemic diseases like cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.

Research has found that individuals with periodontal diseases are more prone to suffer heart disease. Inflammation, which is a common sign of gum disease, can harden the arteries — a condition called atherosclerosis — and result in a harder time for blood to flow.

A disruption of the gum layer can funnel bacteria into the bloodstream and 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 is the umbrella term used to categorize health problems affecting the heart which include 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, disrupting 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 called Porphyromonas gingivalis was found to amplify the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, cause an earlier onset of the autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorder, and speed up the progression of its symptoms as the 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 increase the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, Porphyromanco gingivalis, as well as oral bacteria Tannerella forsythia, were found to increase the likelihood of esophageal cancer by 21 percent.

Moreover, in a study in The Lancet Oncology, men who have had gum disease recorded higher risk of cancer than those without it. Those with gum disease pose a higher chance at 36 percent for lung cancer, 49 percent for kidney cancer, 54 percent for pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent for white blood cell cancer.

Bad breath, bleeding gums, redness or inflammation of gums, tenderness of gums, abnormal pain when chewing, sensitive and loose teeth, receding gums, and pus coming from the gums typically indicate the presence of periodontal disease.

Gingivitis, the 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 advanced case of periodontal disease or periodontitis which can lead to tooth loss and affect overall health through increased risk of systemic illnesses.

Prevention is also highly recommended by practicing primary oral care, visiting the dentist at least twice a year, eating right, and avoid subjecting the mouth to risk factors like smoking.


Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.

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