Recent research studies have shown that there are strong correlations between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular/heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and pregnancy complications. Some newer studies are now looking into the relationship between periodontal disease and osteoporosis.
Periodontal disease is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gum tissue and jawbone supporting teeth as a result of the presence of disease-causing bacteria in the mouth. Halting the progression of periodontal disease and maintaining excellent standards of oral hygiene will not only reduce the risk of gum disease and bone loss, but also reduce the chances of exacerbating or developing other serious chronic illnesses.
Some of the most common conditions associated with periodontal disease are as follows:
A research study has shown that individuals with pre-existing diabetic conditions are more likely to either have, or be more susceptible to , periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can increase blood sugar levels which makes controlling the amount of glucose in the blood difficult. This factor alone can increase the risk of serious diabetic complications. Conversely, diabetes thickens blood vessels and therefore makes it harder for the mouth to rid itself of excess sugar. Excess sugar in the mouth creates a breeding ground for the types of periodontal bacteria that cause gum disease.
There are several theories which explain the link between heart disease and periodontitis. One such theory is that specific periodontal bacteria (p. gingivalis, etc.) which exacerbate periodontal disease attach themselves to the coronary arteries when they enter the bloodstream. This in turn contributes to coronary plaque formation and the narrowing of the coronary arteries, increasing risk of heart attack.
A second possibility is that the inflammatory component of periodontal disease elevates C-reactive proteins in the body which can contribute to significant plaque build up in the coronary and carotid arteries. These blockages of the arteries can contribute negatively to pre-existing heart conditions. Articles published by the American Academy of Periodontology suggest that patients whose bodies react to periodontal bacteria have an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Women in general can be at increased risk of developing periodontal disease because of hormone fluctuations that occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Research suggests that pregnant women suffering from periodontal disease are more at risk of preeclampsia and delivering underweight, premature babies.
Periodontitis increases prostaglandin levels, which is one of the labor-inducing chemicals. Elevated levels prostaglandin may trigger premature labor, and increase the chances of delivering an underweight baby. Periodontal disease also elevates C-reactive proteins (which have previously been linked to heart disease). Heightened levels of these proteins can amplify the inflammatory response of the body and increase the chances of preeclampsia and low birth weight babies.
Bacteria linked with gum disease has been shown to possibly cause or worsen conditions such as emphysema, pneumonia and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Oral bacteria can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract during the course of normal inhalation and colonize; causing bacterial infections. Studies have shown that the repeated infections which characterize COPD may be linked with periodontitis.
In addition to the bacterial risk, inflammation in gum tissue can lead to severe inflammation in the lining of the lungs, which aggravates pneumonia. Individuals who suffer from chronic or persistent respiratory issues generally have low immunity. This means that bacteria can readily colonize beneath the gum line unchallenged by body’s immune system.