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For the Health Professional, Part 2: Gum Disease: A Serious Infection of the Body 12-01-20

For the Health Professional, Part 2:
Gum Disease: A Serious Infection of the Body

Gingivitis (gum inflammation) usually precedes periodontitis (gum disease) and should be taken very seriously by health care professionals. If treated early, we can stave off much more serious health consequences down the road. However, it is important to know that not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis.

In the early stage of gingivitis, bacteria in plaque build up, causing the gums to become inflamed and to easily bleed during brushing. When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis.

Health professionals should be aware of the potential serious affects on overall health. The long held belief that gum disease is a localized, minor disease of the teeth and gums has not withstood the test of time. It is a serious disease of the body originating in the mouth, and left unchecked, gum disease can increase the risk of:

  • Heart attack by as much as 25%
  • Stroke by a factor of 10
  • Respiratory disease
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Digestive disease
  • Preterm low birth weights

Gum disease can also make it more difficult to control diabetes and is now considered a factor in osteoporosis. It can also severely stress the immune system, lowering the body’s resistance to other diseases and reduce life expectancy.


The impact of oral health issues on overall health

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What Causes Gum Disease?

Plaque is the number one cause of gum disease. However, other these factors can contribute to periodontal disease:

  • Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation, make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer or HIV that interfere with the immune system. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, patients with this disease are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
  • Medications can affect oral health, because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Some drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drug Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
  • Bad habits such as smoking make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
  • Poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis, make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.

Sources: Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
DentalWellness4U: The Relationship of Oral to Overall Health

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