Gum disease alters the defence mechanisms of the gum tissues and supporting structures surrounding the teeth. This allows bacteria that should only be present in your mouth to enter the blood stream and spread to other parts of the body.
These bacteria, such as gingivitis found in cases of periodontal disease, has been linked to heart disease, kidney disease, pancreatic cancer, bowel cancer and numerous health issues like lung infections and pneumonia in the elderly.
Dental infections from abscesses and dead teeth allow bacteria from the contaminated tooth to travel directly into the blood stream and lymphatic system.
The mouth bacteria lodge in organs and tissues and create inflammation in these outlying regions. The exact mechanism and link is not fully understood by science at this stage but research is making more and more discoveries regarding the importance of oral-systemic health.
However, all is not as it seems when it comes to science meeting real life situations.
I often see cases with exceedingly poor oral hygiene habits, teeth caked in plaque and tartar, yet somehow the gums appear completely healthy and normal. While others have exceptionally clean teeth and brilliant oral hygiene yet their gums are red, bleeding and swollen and not healthy at all.
This does not make sense and nor does it fit the model that lack of brushing and flossing causes gum disease.
When a person has gum disease they also have increased markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein shows there is inflammation in the body. It is linked to heart disease and other chronic health conditions like arthritis. Inflammation in one part of the body can indicate inflammation in another part of the body. It’s becoming apparent that reducing oral inflammation and its effects on overall health is the one of the first and most important steps in addressing oral-systemic health.
It is crucial that we take gum disease very seriously due to its impact on overall health; statistics show people who receive regular dental cleanings have a 24% lower risk of heart attack and 13% lower risk of stroke than those without regular care. But this is only one side of the coin.
Gum disease itself can be a sign or symptom of underlying health conditions such as:
- iron deficiency anaemia
- lack of Vitamin C
- zinc deficiency
- deficiency in B Group Vitamins like B6, B12 or folate
- and other nutritional issues.
Poor gum health can also indicate:
- viral or yeast infections
- high or uncontrolled blood sugars
- hormone imbalances
- sleep apnoea
- autoimmune conditions and even
- white blood cell disorders like leukaemia.
These are serious and sometimes life threatening conditions so perhaps that small amount of blood on your toothbrush or when you floss isn’t quite so innocent as you may think after all.
Other systemic factors that can adversely affect gum health are:
- exposure to chemicals and toxins
- improper acid- alkaline balance tending towards acidity
- poor nutrition
- weakened/impaired immune response.
Our expert Dentists are trained to recognise these warning symptoms and can often be the first to suspect or diagnose serious health issues. Please do not ignore your bleeding gums as you never know they could be trying to tell you something about your health.