Periodontal disease is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gum tissue, periodontal infection below the gum line and a presence of disease-causing bacteria in the oral region. Studies have shown that there is a strong association between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy complications and respiratory disease.
Some common cofactors associated with periodontal disease are:
– Diabetes thickens blood vessels and makes it harder for the mouth to rid itself of excess sugar because excess sugar in the mouth creates a breeding ground for the types of oral bacteria that cause gum disease. Periodontal disease could increase blood sugar levels, making controlling the amount of glucose in the blood difficult and possibly increasing the risk of serious diabetic complications.
- Heart Disease – One theory explaining the link between heart disease and periodontitis is that the oral bacteria strains exacerbating periodontal disease attach themselves to the coronary arteries when entering the bloodstream, contributing to both blood clot formation and narrowing of the coronary arteries, which could possibly lead to a heart attack. Another possibility is that inflammation caused by periodontal disease causes a significant plaque build up, which can swell the arteries and worsen pre-existing heart conditions.
- Pregnancy Complications – Because of hormone fluctuations occurring during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, women are at increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Periodontitis increases levels of prostaglandin, which is one of the labor-inducing chemicals and these may may trigger premature labor, as well as increase the chances of delivering an underweight baby.
- Respiratory Disease – Oral bacteria can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract during the course of normal inhalation and colonize, causing bacterial infections and possible inflammation in gum tissue that can lead to severe inflammation in the lining of the lungs and aggravate pneumonia. In addition, oral bacterium linked with gum disease has been shown to possibly cause or worsen conditions such as emphysema, pneumonia and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
- Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis, characterized by bone fragility, low bone mass and a decrease in bone mineral density., is a common metabolic bone disease frequently occuring in post-menopausal women and occuring less frequently in men. Studies have explored and identified a connection between periodontal disease and osteoporosis due to estrogen deficiency and low mineral bone density.