Gum disease is a common infection of the gums that comes in two forms. These include gingivitis which is curable and in its early stages and periodontitis which is a later stage of gum disease that is treatable but not curable.
Both conditions can be brought on by tobacco usage, a weak immune system, teeth grinding (bruxism), specific medications, genetics, poor oral hygiene, or systemic diseases.
General health, age, and body mass index (BMI) are other factors that often put specific individuals at risk for gum disease.
Just as gum disease may be brought on by systemic infections, gum disease may also increase the risk of systemic diseases. After all, our oral health is connected to our general health.
These diseases include:
Cancer: Some patients with current gum disease or those who later develop such sometimes have or had have cancer. Cancer can negatively impact how our body works to fight off other diseases, one of those being gum disease. Current and ex-cancer patients are also often aware that chemotherapy, radiation, and cancer medications alone may impact the immune system in a negeative manner.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Being an inflammatory disease of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of the gums. Inflammation of the gums in the form of gum disease may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with current rheumatoid arthritis typically have more significant gum symptoms and may even struggle worse with gum disease than the average sufferer.
Stroke: Reduced blood flow to the brain from a stroke is linked to gum disease. A stroke may intensify the risk of gum disease and vice versa. These conditions are relatively similar considering both involve inflammation.
Heart Disease: Heart disease is another inflammatory disease that may contribute to or be caused by an increased risk of gum disease. High blood pressure and cholesterol are components that neither conditions sit well with. The severity of heart disease often has relations to the seriousness of gum disease that may later develop and vice versa.
Halitosis (bad breath): Bad breath alone will not increase the risk of gum disease or vice versa. However, the actual cause of many individuals’ bad breath is what may contribute to gum disease in some patients. Likewise, gum disease may cause bad breath.
Poor oral hygiene and tooth problems increase harmful oral bacteria which deplete and overtake the good bacteria in our body. Thus, bacteria can cause us to suffer from bad breath and a slower immune system that may make it difficult to fight against conditions such as gum disease.
In patients with existing gum disease, bad breath may arise as gum disease patients typically have compromised immune systems. Thus, this usually means they have higher bacteria in the mouth and often the rest of the body. We all know bacteria does not smell good. Therefore, it is no surprise that it can cause foul-smelling breath.
Respiratory infections: Pneumonia and other respiratory problems correlate with gum disease as these infections are caused by bacteria in plaque that accumulate in the lungs. Because all of our body systems are linked to one another, this should not be a shock.
Plaque can build in any parts of our body. Of course, one of those places is our mouths. Keeping our mouths free of plaque and tartar through good oral hygiene is a must to ensure it does not take over other areas of our body.
Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and excess protein, increases risks of gum disease as well.
Additionally, pregnant women are at risk for the development of gum disease due to their change in hormones. Expecting mothers with gum disease have a higher chance of birthing a premature and low birth weight baby. That said, it is incredibly important that pregnant women with gingivitis or gum disease seek treatment.
Diabetes: Because gum disease often causes blood sugar regulation problems, this can lead to diabetes. Likewise, those with diabetes are more prone to developing gum disease as diabetes causes blood sugar fluctuations. Additionally, diabetes suppresses the immune system, making it hard for the body to fight off other diseases and infections.
Prevent Gum Disease with these 7 Tips
Some methods to help reduce the risk of gum disease include:
Stress can trigger a plethora of health problems. Besides higher blood pressure, the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, and changes in our weight, stress can also increase our bacteria count in our body and lower our immune system. The latter two alone can increase our risks of various oral health problems such as gum disease.
It is wise that we take time out of our days to wind down and relax, especially if our lifestyle is particularly stressful.
#2 Avoiding specific medications
Certain medications such as oral contraceptives and antidepressants can risk oral health problems such as gum disease if taken long term.
Please speak to your healthcare provider regarding the risks of taking a specific medication. This is especially important if you already have a genetic predisposition to gum disease.
A diet consisting of restricted calories and unhealthy foods is not a diet one wants to have if trying to prevent various oral health problems.
Gum disease, primarily due to bacteria overgrowth, thrives off a sugary diet. In protecting your teeth and gums, it is wise to stick to a mostly healthy diet. Such a diet should consist of a wide array of fruits and vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy. However, one should restrict alcohol and sugary, processed foods.
If you have a particular diet (e.g., veganism) or cannot consume grain or dairy products, speak with a nutritionist or doctor for advice.
Tobacco is another factor that may lead to the development gum disease in the future. Kicking tobacco products to the curb, including cigarettes and cigars, is essential in maintaining good oral health. Apart from reducing the risks of gum disease, eliminating tobacco use can also lower the chance of oral cancer development.
Because gum disease occurs in stages, it’s vital to continue biannual dental visits to ensure gum disease is not currently present. After all, some may not notice signs of gum disease early on.
Fortunately, gum problems can be caught and treated early. If your dentist advises that your gums are weak, it merely suggests that you should better tend to the hygiene of your gums. In doing so, you can prevent gingivitis (early stage of gum disease) from happening, thus permanent gum disease.
Teeth grinding places force on teeth and gums, causing gum disease to set in quicker. For this reason, it’s vital that those who grind their teeth receive treatment (e.g., a mouth guard). Additionally, it would be helpful to tackle the underlying cause of their tooth grinding, such as high stress, to reduce gum problems.
Twice-a-day brushing, rinsing with fluoride-based mouthwash, and flossing are all essential to decrease the bacteria present in your mouth. In turn, good hygiene can keep your oral standing where it needs to be.