When you neglect your oral health for a longer period of time, bacteria which are normally found in your mouth, multiply in such great numbers that they get into your gums and cause infections commonly known as gum disease.
The body’s natural response to this is sending antibodies to fight the infection and destroy the foreign invaders i.e., the bacteria. The battle between the antibodies and bacteria leads to inflammation and damage of the tissue and can even compromise your own health.
Gum disease can affect your overall health
When gum disease starts developing, the first stage is called gingivitis. Since this is the early stage of the disease, it can be easily treated with thorough cleaning and better oral hygiene. This is why it’s important to have a regular dentist appointment at least every six months and have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year.
Once the infection reaches the second stage, called the periodontitis, it cannot be reversed through cleaning or hygiene. Instead, your dentist will help you manage the problem by appropriate treatments such as antibiotics or dental surgery (flap surgery to clean the deposits under your gums)
Gum disease isn’t only a matter of the health of your gums. In fact, the numerous problems it can cause can have severe detrimental effect on your entire body.
Heat disease caused by gum disease
If the bacteria on and in your gums isn’t managed, it can easily get into the bloodstream and start circulating through your entire body. The more bacteria there is, the more deposits there can be on the walls of your blood vessels which drastically increases your chances of a heart attack or other heart-related problems.
Bacteria in your mouth feed on the bits of food that remain between your teeth after a meal. During this time, bacteria secrets various types of acid (to break down the food) which also damage your tooth enamel and can cause tooth decay. Furthermore, the chemicals they (the bacteria) release in your gums can have harmful effects on your nervous system and some studies have also linked them to dementia.
This problem may only affect men, but if you have periodontitis or gum disease, there is a higher risk that you might develop prostate problems which can lead to weak bladder or even problems when urinating (difficulty urinating or painful urination).
Respiratory issues and gum disease
Bacteria from your mouth can get into your lungs, and it doesn’t have to get into your bloodstream. It’s enough if you inhale it. Those bacteria have no business in your lungs but they can cause respiratory problems such as bronchitis, pneumonia and various respiratory infections. Getting gum disease under control, minimizes your risk.
Just as your gums become inflamed due to gum disease, so can your blood vessels. Inflamed blood vessels can easily become clogged, constricted and limit the blood flow through different parts of your body. For men, this can also cause erectile disfunction.
How can you protect yourself?
Gum disease doesn’t have to be a serious problem if it caught early, in the first stage. However, as with all dental problems, it’s best to prevent it, rather than treat it.
The best prevention is, as we mentioned earlier, good oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist (at least twice a year). All dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day at least (not right after your means – wait 30-45 minutes). This should help prevent the plaque buildup on and in between your teeth. It’s also a good choice to use antibacterial mouthwash and to floss once a day.
If you’ve noticed redness, pain or tenderness in your gums, schedule an appointment as soon as you can so your dentist could take a look and determine the cause of the problem and treat it.