How Does Gum Disease Affect Your Overall Health?

Until recently, periodontal (gum) disease was considered to be only a localized infection with little or no effect on our overall health and well-being. Continuing research, however, has shown that periodontal disease may have powerful and multiple influences on the onset and severity of many systemic conditions and diseases.

Periodontal (gum) disease is a serious infection caused by plaque bacteria. Although much of the bacteria is confined to the pockets around the teeth, the bacteria that make up the plaque can invade the gum tissue and enter the bloodstream, circulating throughout the body.

Once inside, the bacteria are able to secrete destructive chemicals and virulence factors. These factors activate the body's immune system to respond much in the same way as the body responds to infected cuts or illnesses like pneumonia - with inflammation, pain, and destruction of the tissues.

The presence of long-standing periodontal disease can place you at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as premature, low birth weight babies. In addition, periodontal disease is a serious threat to patients already affected by diabetes, respiratory diseases, and stroke.

Women, in particular, have special health needs during certain periods of their lives. These come during periods of maturity and change in their bodies: puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. What is not so widely known is that women's oral health needs can also change during these times.