You really wouldn’t think of Gum Disease as a silent killer throughout the ages. It was one of the primary reasons that humans who lived long enough died back in the caveman days. It caused the death of a couple of famous Egyptian pharaohs. Kings as well as serfs suffered from it in the Middle Ages. George Washington was besieged by it most of his adult life and ended up with a mouth full of wood. What we’re talking about here is not some plague or pox, but rather periodontal disease. You might think that in this day and age of modern dentistry, the problem has been solved, but now new evidence suggests that tooth decay and gum infection may contribute to a host of systemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. People with uncontrolled diabetes are more likely to have periodontal infections, which may cause diabetics to have problems maintaining normal blood-sugar levels. Other diseases, which may be affected by periodontal infections, include respiratory disease and problems with pregnancy.
Studies that show a relationship between gum disease and tooth loss and cardiovascular disease date all the way back to 1987. The prevailing theory as to why there is a link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease involves a nasty little inflammatory cell mediator called C-reactive protein. This mediator is known to form deposits in injured blood vessels and contribute to plaque formation.
Periodontal disease may also be a risk factor for respiratory disease. Inhaling bacteria that normally colonize the mouth and throat can even lead to bacterial pneumonia. In the United States, one out of every ten pregnancies results in preterm delivery. Studies have shown that periodontal infection can impair fetal development. Biochemical mediators such as the C-reactive protein may also cause this to happen.
It has been shown that up to 80% of all people in the United States have early signs of gum disease. 10 % of all adults up to age 64 have severe disease. The disease starts with the accumulation of plaque, a sticky colorless film that accumulates on our teeth. This plaque is made up of more than 400 species of bacteria. Whether or not you develop the disease depends on your body’s reaction to the bacteria. Some factors that influence this are age, genetics, immune system changes, and existing metabolic disease such as diabetes.
Even though 80% of the population has some form of gum disease; most people don’t realize it until it starts causing problems. Gingivitis, which causes your gums to turn red and bleed easily, is usually the earliest form of gum disease.
Of course, good dental hygiene and regular dental checkups are the best way to prevent periodontal disease. Lifestyle and diet changes may also help. There is a test to measure the amount of C-reactive protein in the blood and it may become as common a part of cardiovascular disease screening as cholesterol testing in the future. You may also want to consult a dentist who specializes in biologic dentistry.
In the ancient past, being able to chew meant being able to eat and survive. Now it seems that being able to chew is tied directly to your overall health.