Gum disease: How does your dental health affect your general health?

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General Dental Care
BAppSc (Orth) Hons (Usyd), DDS (Melb)

Gum Disease Dental HealthYou might be surprised to know that your mouth is home to some 19,000-26,000 oral microbial species. While most of these live in harmony with the oral environment, there are some which are more harmful. In the right conditions, a proportion of these bugs will thrive and lead to gum disease. When present, this disease can affect your general health in multiple ways.

Cardiovascular Disease

Yes, that’s right! Gum disease can affect your heart! Bacteria present in gum disease initiate a variety of reactions from the body’s immune system. These reactions result in elevated levels of a protein which is associated with increased risk of heart attack. This protein can also cause peripheral artery disease in otherwise healthy individuals. Bacteria present in gum disease can also travel through the blood stream and attach to abnormal or damaged heart valves and cause a condition called endocarditis.

Diabetes

Diabetes and gum disease go hand-in-hand and have a symbiotic relationship. It occurs more in those with diabetes and once present, it can cause further progression of diabetes.

If not cleaned, the bacteria causes breakdown of the bone and surrounding attachment for the teeth, causing mobility and eventual loss of the teeth. This breakdown of the attachment for the teeth is accelerated in people with poorly controlled diabetes.

Conversely, the presence of bacteria associated with gum disease can cause a variety of reactions by the body’s immune system which causes progression of type 2 diabetes. For example, there is further destruction of the cells which produce insulin in the body and destruction of the substance which protects organs from damage. Thus, gum disease can increase the damaging effects of diabetes.

Respiratory Disease

Bacteria present in gum disease and the body’s immune response can be the cause of pneumonia. Enzymes present in saliva may modify the surfaces of the lung, making aspirated bacteria stick and inhabit the surface of the lung causing pneumonia.

Pregnancy

Toxic effects of bacteria that is present during gum disease can be transported via the blood stream to the placenta membrane and cause rupture of the placenta. Other responses by the body’s immune system in gum disease can also retard foetal growth.

There are many ways in which gum disease can influence general health and the best way to avoid these problems is to ensure that you have regular cleans at your dentist, floss once daily and brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes, ensuring you brush along the gum margin with gentle pressure. This will ensure that the bacteria that cause these complications to your general health are removed before they are able to do so.

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