Periodontal Disease and the Connection to Systemic Diseases

For decades it was thought that diseases affecting the mouth were completely separate from those affecting the body. However, we now know that oral health and particularly periodontal disease is closely connected to systemic health. Periodontal disease or gum disease is now linked to serious systemic conditions including Type II diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease amongst others. It can also adversely affect pregnancy.

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition affecting the tissues surrounding teeth and which occurs when bacteria in the mouth build up in dental plaque, usually because of poor oral hygiene. The body’s inflammatory response to this bacterial buildup can destroy the tissues around your teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss. There are several stages of periodontal disease, ranging from reversible gingivitis to chronic periodontitis.

One of the most common symptoms of periodontal disease is bleeding gums, and these open wounds allow bacteria in the mouth to enter the body. Once these bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can travel virtually anywhere, and oral bacteria have been found in arteries of patients with cardiovascular disease. Periodontal disease can make conditions like diabetes harder to control and may increase the chances of developing Type II diabetes.

The good news is that periodontal disease is avoidable with good oral hygiene to reduce plaque buildup. Regular dental visits allow us to detect signs of this disease early when it is still reversible.