Seventy per cent of Canadians will get gum disease at some stage of their lives, according to the Canadian Dental Association. The problem is more prevalent than tooth decay and other dental issues, and can progress without obvious symptoms until it begins to destroy teeth, soft tissue and jaw bone.

While gum disease – periodontitis or periodontal disease – is a serious condition in itself, you may not be aware that it has been associated with other significant health threats.

Your gums form a barrier to help prevent inflammation from damaging other areas of your body, and when this protection is compromised by periodontitis, there’s a greater risk of development or aggravation of other health problems.

Gum disease has been linked to health issues such as:

  • Heart problems
  • Premature birth
  • Diabetes

Heart Issues and Gum Disease

Heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease – occurs when blood vessels narrow or become completely blocked, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.

Numerous studies have shown that people with gum disease have higher rates of cardiovascular problems than those with good oral health – although there appears to be no hard evidence of a direct connection between heart disease and periodontitis.

Nevertheless, one theory is that bacteria that infect the gums can travel via blood vessels to other parts of the body, including the heart, where they can cause inflammation and damage leading to heart problems.

Premature Birth and Gum Disease

Health Canada advises pregnant women to be extra vigilant about the condition of their gums. Research suggests that bacteria from gum disease can get into the bloodstream and attack the foetus, potentially resulting in premature labour and low-birth-weight (PLBW) babies.

The WebMD health information resource points out that more than one major study has shown a link between periodontal disease and premature birth. One set of researchers concluded that pregnant women with chronic gum disease were four to seven times more likely to have premature babies.

Diabetes and Gum Disease

If you have diabetes, gum disease can make it worse as it becomes more difficult to control your blood sugar levels.

The problem is compounded by the fact that diabetics are at greater risk of periodontal disease. They’re more vulnerable to infection, which makes it harder to combat bacteria that attack the gums.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease results from an accumulation of plaque – a sticky coating that contains harmful bacteria. The condition is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. However, infection and inflammation from periodontal disease may not remain confined within your mouth.

Besides heart problems, diabetes and premature birth, gum disease has also been linked to:

  • Lung infections
  • Brain disease
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Erectile dysfunction

The main cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene.

How to Avoid Gum Disease

Kitchener dentist – Fairway Dental Urgent Care Clinic often sees the results of oral hygiene neglect and gum disease and its associated problems, including potentially life-threatening issues such as severe infections.

The clinic points out that problems like these can be avoided with good oral healthcare at home and regular dental exams and professional cleanings.