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7 Complications Associated With Periodontitis (Gum Disease)

Periodontitis is a serious infection of the gums (gingivitis) that causes damage to the soft tissues and bones that support your teeth. An estimated 47.2 percent of adults in America have severe, moderate or mild periodontitis, according to a 2009 and 2010 study that researched the prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States.

In addition to a plethora of uncomfortable symptoms such as swollen gums, pain or tenderness of the gums and pus formation between the gums and teeth, many serious complications can occur. Here’s a look at some dangerous complications your periodontist may point out to you.

1. Tooth Loss

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can generally be reversed with regular brushing and flossing. Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss. As periodontitis progresses, the supporting structures of the teeth including bone and tissue are destroyed. This causes the teeth to gradually loosen and fall out.

2. Respiratory Problems

Periodontitis has been linked to respiratory disease and may worsen certain conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CORD), according to the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. The oral bacterium that causes periodontitis can enter the lower respiratory tract and colonize in the lungs, causing respiratory problems like pneumonia and exacerbate conditions like CORD.

3. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease develops when fatty proteins and plaque accumulates on the walls of the arteries. Over time, the arteries begin to narrow causing a constriction in blood flow. As oxygen is restricted from traveling to the heart, symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and even heart attack can occur. Periodontitis has been proven to exacerbate heart problems when oral bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries, which can lead to clot formations.

4. Stroke

Research has linked periodontitis to an increased risk of stroke. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, one study found people with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to be suffering from an oral infection in comparison to those in study’s control group. Stroke occurs when there is an interruption in the blood supply to the brain. When bacteria strains from an oral infection attach to carotid arteries, a stroke can occur.

5. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes inflammation, stiffness and pain in the joints. When someone has both gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, they have a higher count of anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs), which can exacerbate both conditions. Periodontitis also causes chronic inflammation in the mouth, which can in turn trigger chronic inflammation in other parts of the body, such as the joints.

6. Pregnancy Issues

Women with periodontitis are at a higher risk for developing premature labor and low-birth-weight infants, according to the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. Pregnant women have higher levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. This rise in hormones can cause the gums to react in a different way to the bacteria found in oral plaque. The body reacts by producing extra prostaglandins, fatty acids that can cause a baby to be born too small or too early.

7. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that can affect the lungs and airways that lead to the lungs. People with asthma often experience symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. According to research performed by a team of Brazilian researchers, adults with periodontal disease are significantly more likely to develop severe asthma.

Periodontitis can cause a wide variety of serious complications if not promptly treated. For more information about periodontitis or to schedule an oral health checkup, contact a local periodontist.

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