After neglecting to visit your family dentist for a couple of years, you are shocked to discover that you have gum disease.  After hearing the diagnosis, you realize that your gums have been sore lately.  If this scenario sounds familiar, you may be at risk for health problems besides painful gums.  In some cases, gum disease may be responsible for causing the following 4 serious health conditions.    

Heart Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, results from an infection of the bones and supporting tissues around your teeth.  The common symptoms of this oral disorder include:

  • Uncontrollable bad breath

  • A misaligned bite

  • Loose teeth

  • Receding gums

  • Discharge from gums

In addition to these troubling symptoms, gum disease is also believed to play a role in the development of heart disease.  People with periodontal disease have increased levels of inflammation in their mouths.  This inflammation in a person’s mouth is believed to be responsible for causing heart disease in some people.

Besides heart disease, uncontrolled periodontal disease can lead to other cardiovascular issues including:

  • Stroke

  • Blocked arteries

  • Endocarditis

Endocarditis is inflammation of the endocardium, the interior lining of a person’s heart.  This serious health condition can result when bacteria from your gums flows through your blood and connects to compromised areas of your heart.  If your dentist feels that your odds of developing endocarditis are increased by periodontal disease, you may need to take antibiotics before undergoing any type of dental treatment.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Besides life threatening heart disease, people with gum disease face increased odds of contracting rheumatoid arthritis.  This debilitating inflammatory disease is characterized by:

  • Swollen joints

  • Painful joints

  • Stiff joints

In a healthy person, inflammation is a defensive immune system reaction to harmful stimuli such as germs and viruses.  However, people with rheumatoid arthritis experience inflammation when no germs or viruses are present.  Medical experts feel that gum disease patients’ immune systems can be motivated to produce inflammation because of the infections in their mouths.

This inflammation then settles painfully in the joints of the patients forming arthritis.  Therefore, treating the infectious gum disease in patients’ mouths might lessen the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, is yet another life threatening medical condition that has been linked to gum disease.  The heartbreaking symptoms of this disease include:

  • Repeated respiratory infections

  • Blue fingernails and lips

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Tightness of the chest

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Sluggishness

  • Constant need to clear the throat

COPD can result when the bacteria from gum disease in the mouth travels down to a person’s lower respiratory zone.  Many people who contract this type of respiratory infection eventually die from the illness.

Cancer

The odds are great that you or someone you know has battled cancer.  This destroying illness claims far too many lives each year.  Research seems to indicate that gum disease increases your chances of contracting certain types of cancer including:

  • Lung cancer

  • Leukemia

  • Pancreatic cancer

  • Kidney cancer

  • Neck cancer

Periodontal disease is believed to be the leading cause of continuous slightly elevated inflammation in the body.  If left untreated, the inflammation resulting from gum disease can permanently damage your immune system.  A compromised immune system is believed to be the reason for the increased risk of cancer seen in gum disease patients.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with gum disease, you might not understand the seriousness of this oral health problem.  Unfortunately, if your periodontal disorder is left unchecked, you may be at risk for developing one of the aforementioned 4 life changing health conditions.  To learn more about the dangers of gum disease and how to best treat it, make a follow up appointment with your family dentistry specialist.