Why Brushing Your Teeth Is Key To Longevity: 6 Ways Gum Disease Can Lead To Serious Health Problems

If you thought that preventing gum disease only benefits your oral hygiene, you are wrong. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can be a prelude to more serious health problems far beyond your mouth. As it turns out, the health of your gums can determine long-term health from head to toe.

Millions of Americans currently suffer from gum disease. Symptoms include swollen, red, and sensitive gums. Gum disease can be cured if caught early. Preventing gum disease is as simple as flossing regularly, brushing your teeth twice a day, using mouthwash and going to the dentist regularly.

So how is the condition linked to overall health? Research published on StudyFinds over the years reveals links between gum disease and everything from heart and blood pressure complications to mental health issues. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly to find out how healthy your gums are and how to prevent periodontal disease.

Here is an overview of some of the health problems associated with gum disease:

Increases risk of heart disease

Add gum disease to the growing list of factors that increase your risk of heart disease, according to findings. The association was stronger the more severe the periodontitis was.

“Our study suggests that dental screening programs, including regular checkups and education about good oral hygiene, may help prevent first and subsequent heart disease.” says dr. Giulia Ferannini of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and author of the study. “We hypothesize that damage to periodontal tissues in people with gum disease may facilitate the transmission of germs into the bloodstream. This may accelerate harmful changes to the blood vessels and/or enhance systemic inflammation that is harmful to the blood vessels.”

People with gum disease were 49% more likely to have heart problems than people with healthy gums, the study concludes.

READ MORE: Having gum disease increases your risk of future heart problems

Risk of developing mental health problems, autoimmune diseases

Poor dental health can also lead to poor mental health, a study reveals. Researchers at the University of Birmingham say developing gum disease can also increase a person’s risk of depression and anxiety in years to come. Along with mental health issues, the study authors found that a history of gum disease can significantly increase a person’s chances of developing autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and even metabolic disorders like diabetes.

Researchers examined the medical histories of more than 64,000 people with a history of periodontal disease during the study. This includes gingivitis and periodontitis – a serious gum infection that leads to bleeding gums and can destroy the jaw bone without immediate treatment. A total of 60,995 participants had gingivitis and 3,384 had periodontitis.

The results show that those with periodontal disease at the start of the study had a 37 percent higher risk of developing mental health problems over the next three years. Study authors note that these problems include higher rates of depression, anxiety, and “serious mental illness.”

“An important implication of our findings is the need for effective communication between dentists and other healthcare professionals to ensure that patients receive an effective treatment plan that addresses both oral and wider health to improve their existing overall health and reduce the risk of reduce future disease,” adds co. -senior author professor Krish Nirantharakumar.

READ MORE: Gum disease increases risk of developing mental health problems by nearly 40%

Those with gum disease are 9x more likely to die from COVID-19

It’s no secret that during COVID-19, patients were afraid to enter the dental office because of all the tiny particles that can fly through the air. However, for people with gum problems, brushing can save their lives. A study shows that patients with gum disease who contract COVID-19 are alarming nine times more likely to die.

An international team finds that COVID patients are three times more likely to end up in intensive care or on a ventilator if they already suffer from periodontitis. About half of the world’s population over the age of 30 suffers from periodontal disease. Gum disease causes swelling and bleeding in and around the gums along the teeth.

If not treated properly, the inflammation can spread throughout the body and even infect the lungs. Coronavirus patients on ventilators may be particularly vulnerable, as they are more likely to inhale oral bacteria, scientists say.

“The results of the study suggest that the inflammation in the oral cavity may open the door for the coronavirus to become more violent,” study co-author Professor Lior Shapira of Hebrew University. “Oral care should be part of health recommendations to reduce the risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes.”

READ MORE: Patients with gum disease are 9 TIMES more likely to die from COVID-19!

From Gums to Gut: Periodontitis Makes IBD Worse

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects about three million people in the United States. An imbalance in the gut microbiome can be the cause of painful and sometimes chronic stomach conditions. One study suggests that problems in your gut may actually start with problems in your mouth. Researchers at the University of Michigan say poor oral hygiene can make a person’s IBD worse.

The study reveals two possible ways bacteria in a patient’s mouth travel to the gut and cause more inflammation. Researcher Nobuhiko Kamada says there is growing evidence that people with IBD have an overgrowth of foreign bacteria in their gut. That bacteria, says Kamada, usually starts in the mouth.

Researchers say gum disease causes an unhealthy imbalance in the mouth’s microbiome. That bacteria causes both inflammation and disease which then travels to the intestines. This particular process doesn’t cause IBD, researchers say, but it did exacerbate the symptoms of mice with intestinal inflammation. “In mice with IBD, the healthy gut bacteria are disrupted, making them less resistant to disease-causing bacteria from the mouth,” Kamada explains.

The team also says periodontal disease causes the body’s own immune system to damage the gut. Gum disease causes the immune system to respond and send T cells to the mouth to fight infection. In a healthy gut, inflammatory and regulatory T cells work in harmony and know how to tolerate local bacteria. Researchers say gum disease usually triggers inflammatory T cells to respond. Those cells eventually travel to the intestines and upset the natural balance, exacerbating disease.

READ MORE: Brush for your gut! Doctors say poor oral hygiene can make IBD worse

Strong link with high blood pressure

What do swollen, bleeding gums have to do with high blood pressure? Apparently more than you would expect. Research shows that people with gum disease are more likely to have hypertension.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death worldwide, affecting 30% to 45% of the population. Similarly, inflammation of the gums, connective tissues and bones that support the teeth is present in more than half of the world’s population. Doctors say it’s no coincidence that so many people struggle with both conditions.

Previous research has suggested a link between the two conditions. For the study, researchers gathered information from 81 studies conducted in 26 countries. They tried to determine how often patients with moderate to severe cases of gum disease also have high blood pressure. The results showed that patients with periodontitis tended to have higher arterial blood pressure – on average 4.5 mmHg higher systolic (contracted) and 2 mmHg higher diastolic (resting) blood pressure.

While this may seem like a small number, researchers say that just a 5 mmHg increase in blood pressure increases the risk of death from a heart attack or stroke by 25%. Overall, the authors calculated that the risk of hypertension was 22% higher for patients with moderate to severe periodontitis and 49% higher for patients with severe periodontitis.

READ MORE: Gum disease is strongly linked to high blood pressure, study shows

Gum disease linked to Alzheimer’s disease

Brushing your teeth twice a day will do more than just brush your teeth, it may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, a study finds.

Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway say the bacteria that causes gum disease – P. gingivalis – was found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and is believed to significantly increase the chances of developing the condition. Enzymes produced by the bacteria, known as gingipains, destroy nerve cells in the brain and cause memory loss before turning into Alzheimer’s disease, the authors say.

For the study, researchers recruited 53 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and found the bacteria in the brains of 96% of the participants. While the bacteria doesn’t cause Alzheimer’s disease on its own, researchers say it plays an important role in its development and may also cause it to progress more quickly.

“We found DNA-based evidence that the bacteria that cause gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” said study co-author Piotr Mydel, a researcher in the university’s Department of Clinical Sciences.

READ MORE: Brushing your teeth twice a day helps keep Alzheimer’s away, study finds

As always, talk to your dentist and doctor about any issues with your oral hygiene or any concerns you may have about the health conditions mentioned in this article.

Why Brushing Your Teeth Is Key To Longevity: 6 Ways Gum Disease Can Lead To Serious Health Problems

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