What Gum Disease Bacteria Does To You That May Surprise You.

Posted on Dec 15, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As we round the corner of another year, making oral hygiene a priority seems a distant thought in the midst of holiday preparations and activities of the season. But, it should be at all times in our lives, for many reasons.

Over the years, research has continuously shown that the bacteria of periodontal disease can have a number of harmful effects – in the mouth AND elsewhere.

This is because these inflammatory bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Studies show that these bacteria can activate or worsen a number of serious health problems.

People easily understand that a mouthful of bacteria can cause bad breath and gums that may be tender and redden in color. This makes sense, since an area with a skin cut can redden and swell if it doesn’t heal properly. Yet, because gum tissues are concealed behind cheeks and lips, it is easier to ignore problems that may be clear that something is wrong if more exposed.

To be clear, bacteria in our bodies is not always a bad thing. For example, certain bacteria in the gut actually enhance the process of digestion and help to keep the digestive system operating efficiently.

However, some bacteria are bad. These ignite when too much bacteria invade the body, causing the immune system to become overburdened. Bacterial overload can leave the body’s natural defense response, white blood cells, unable to conquer the infection. So, when a cut becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to give the immune system added reinforcements.

And, when bacteria overload occurs in the mouth, an inflammatory reaction begins. This is the beginning of gum disease.

Signs of gum disease include bleeding or sore gums, persistent bad breath, receded gums, and/or gums that are red rather than a healthy pink. These are warning signs since gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

As gum disease progresses, gums begin to pull away from the base of teeth, gums become very tender and bleed easily when brushing, pus pockets form on gums and teeth may shift or loosen.

Unfortunately, gum disease is ignored too often by adults in the U.S. The CDC estimates that over 47% of Americans have some level of gum disease, which is also the leading cause of tooth loss.

A periodontist is a specialist in the treatment of all stages of gum disease and in the placement of dental implants.  He or she is the expert who can help to restore a bacteria-burdened “oral cavity” to a healthy state.

In addition to a healthy smile, the health of your gums can impact your overall health. By keeping the bacteria of advanced gum disease, known as periodontitis, you lower your risks of a long list of serious health problems that have been shown connected to gum disease bacteria. These include:

• Heart Disease & Stroke – 
According to research, having advanced gum disease makes you twice as likely to develop heart disease. This is due to clot-causing proteins that occur from oral bacteria that can clog arteries, including the carotid artery that supplies the brain with blood.

• Dementia & Alzheimer’s disease
 – Studies have shown that tooth loss from oral bacteria is a risk factor for memory loss and early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently, oral infection cause inflammation triggers that can lead to the destruction of brain cells.

• Cancer – 
Researchers found that males with gum disease are 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, nearly 50% more likely to develop kidney cancer and 30% more likely to have blood cancers.

• Diabetes
 – Because people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, with 95% of whom also have periodontal disease.

• Erectile Dysfunction – 
Men with periodontal disease are 7 times more likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED).

• Premature Birth – Nearly 13% of U.S. babies are born premature, which can lead to breathing issues and infections. Infection in the mother’s body, which includes infection from periodontal disease, can create inflammatory reactions that are related to premature and low birth weight babies.

• Infertility – 
Research has found that gum disease can complicate attempts for a female to become pregnant.

• Respiratory Problems – 
When bloodborne bacteria from gum disease reaches the lungs, people with respiratory problems are at higher risk of pneumonia and acute bronchitis (COPD).

It has been said that the mouth is the gateway to the body. Whether it’s the holidays or vacation time or just a busy schedule, your oral health should be a commitment. It takes just minutes a day to brush your teeth thoroughly (at least 2 minutes each time), twice daily, floss daily and swish after meals.

Drink plenty of water, especially after consuming caffeinated beverages or alcohol (including wine). If you smoke, begin with a periodontal exam and ask our hygienist for at-home care instructions.

Call 828-274-9440 if you have questions about your gums or if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms of gum disease. Also, visit our website to learn more about our sedation options (including “twilight sleep”) and advanced technology, which often reduces treatment time while enhancing comfort.





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