Can gum disease kill you?

Can gum disease kill you

Gum disease is an illness of supporting tissues of the teeth. In gum disease, the bone, cementum, and intervening collagen fibers get sick and lose function. The health of gums influences our health, and their declining health is linked to various systemic ailments. In this article, I will elaborate on how gum disease can kill you. 

Is there any mouth-body connection? 

Mouth and body are closely knitted together. A healthy mouth leads to a healthy body. The mouth and teeth are the gateways to food that enters your body. 

Teeth are the primary source of extracting nutrients from the food you eat. The food is broken into a fine paste by teeth and enzymes present in the saliva. The digestion process begins in the mouth and continues to be acted by stomach acid and intestinal enzymes until the body absorbs it from the thin intestinal wall. 

If the teeth are weak or loose, the body can’t extract the nutrients out of the food. People with advanced gum disease are often nutritionally deficient because they thrive on a soft, refined diet to swallow.   

Moreover, good oral bacteria make nitrite from nitrates in the diet and saliva. Nitrite is precursor of nitrous oxide that dilates your blood vessels and control blood pressure. Without these healthy bacteria, you can’t make enough nitrous oxide in the body.           

A brief overview about gum disease

Gum disease is a broad term that initiates gum inflammation and progresses to loss of fibers attaching the tooth to the bone, bone resorption, and infected cementum. The tissue inflammation is triggered by dental plaque and tartar deposits predominantly due to inadequate oral hygiene.

The bacteria, bacterial byproducts (e.g, proteolytic enzymes breaks down protein) and the products of inflammation (c-reactive protein etc.,) have destructive properties on the surrounding tissues, resulting in attachment loss of fibers, bone resorption, loose teeth, and deep gum pockets. 

Precisely, advanced gum disease is known periodontitis or periodontal disease.

Click the link for full article on, Can loose teeth be saved?

Can gum disease make you sick?

Yes, advanced gum disease can make you sick. Gum disease is directly linked to body health. 

Advanced gum disease can either undermine overall health or aggravate inflammatory conditions.

Gum disease is linked to developing conditions such as heart, kidney, lungs, endocrine (diabetes), cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases (related to the brain). The spread of low-grade, long-standing (existing for years) unmanaged inflammation of gums to other body parts is the root cause of disease elsewhere.

How does gum disease initiate heart and a bunch of other ailments?

The plaque bacteria and their antigenic byproducts can enter the blood circulation, settle in the arteries, and cause inflammation. The likelihood of bacteria and inflammatory products entering the circulation after brushing, flossing, or scaling depends on the individual’s gum health. 

Bleeding frequently occurs in gum disease, with gum pockets loaded with nasty bacteria. The chances of bacteria entering the blood are relatively high in people with gum disease. 

Blood can take them to any organ, but most importantly, they cause more harm to the vessel walls. Wherever bacteria go, they initiate an acute inflammatory response. The inflammatory mediators produced from the body’s response instabilizes the circulating fats and allow them to stick to the vessel walls with other products of inflammation. This low-grade, long-standing inflammation damages the arteries or affected organs over time. 

Another reason for the development of products clogging the arteries is the cross-reaction of the antibodies produced in response to bacteria in the gum pockets. The antibodies bind to the vessel wall cells (antigen-antibody complex) and initiate an inflammatory reaction causing damage to the vessel walls. The circulating cells tend to stick to damaged roughened artery walls more than smooth walls resulting in arterial plaque formation. 

Different diseases developing from advanced gum disease

The blockage of arteries in different regions gives rise to other diseases. Here is a list of a few conditions that can result from long-standing gum disease: 

  • Stroke: Clogging of arteries in the brain are linked to stroke. 
  • Heart attack: Blockage of arteries supplying the heart can lead to heart attack
  • Autoimmune disease: Antigen-antibody complex formation in the vessels can lead to autoimmune disease. 
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease: The inflammatory products reach the brain through blood and damage glial cells, responsible for removing waste from the brain, impairing neuronal function and connections. Gum disease also plays a role in beta amyloid protein formation in the brain and can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 
  • Cancer: Excessive free radical production due to prolonged inflammation allows cancer to thrive. 

Can gum disease kill you?

Yes, gum disease can kill you. A systemic review studied 6 case control and cohort studies and found a positive association with heart attack and stroke in patients with advanced gum disease.

Gum disease increases the risk of stroke more than a heart attack. Moreover, periodontitis has more life-threatening consequences in young males than older males (above 65) and women. Complete occlusion (clogging) of small arteries supplying blood to the brain or heart can lead to stroke or heart attack that can cause death or lifelong disability.

Smoking and uncontrolled diabetes with periodontitis can increase your risk of these life-threatening illnesses. Smoking and diabetes are the reasons you get periodontitis. So, be cautious if you have got them. 

Proper management of gum disease can help decrease the risk of these adverse events. 

Diabetes and gum disease – a two-way relationship  

Diabetes and gum disease are closely linked to one another. The progression of any of these conditions affects each other. You are three times more likely to get gum disease if you have uncontrolled diabetes.

Elevated blood glucose levels are linked to the development of gum disease. Patients with an HbA1c level of >9% are significantly at high risk of advanced gun disease. The average level of HbA1c falls between 4%-5.6%, and levels 6.5% and higher show that you have diabetes.

Moreover, in uncontrolled diabetes, continuous rise in blood sugar levels impairs the function of white blood cells, delays healing, and increases the infection risk. 

On the other hand, gum disease increases the complications associated with diabetes, such as kidney disease, heart disease, and peripheral neuropathy. There is a 3.2 times increase in the risk of death from heart attack and diabetic neuropathy combined in diabetic patients with severe gum disease. Also, end-stage kidney disease increases twofold in diabetic patients with severe gum disease. 

Let’s see how this happens

In uncontrolled diabetes, high blood sugar levels glycate or oxidize the circulating proteins and fats and convert them into a sticky cross-linked molecule that clogs the small vessels in the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys. These molecules are known as advanced glycation end products. In progressive gum disease, an acute inflammatory reaction against the circulating bacteria aggravates the condition.  

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

Are there any types of gum disease? 

There are various types of gum diseases:

Following are the different types gum diseases:

  • Juvenile periodontitis – it occurs in children and is uncommon. 
  • Adult periodontitis – it occurs after age 35 or above and is the most common type. 
  • Aggressive periodontitis – it occurs in young adults and causes rapid tissue destruction
  • Periodontitis associated with other diseases such as diabetes, hypothroidism etc.,.  
  • Nectrotizing ulcerative periodontitis – ulcers are seen on the gums covered by yellowish membrane. It is seen in smokers or under stressful situations

Is gums disease curable?

Yes, gum disease is completely curable and is reversible in its early stages. However, advanced gum disease with deep gum pockets and receding gum lines can be managed with professional scaling and polishing, home care and antibiotic therapy (oral and topical). The receding gum lines can’t be corrected without surgery.

Severe gum disease with loose teeth require tooth removal including the above methods to manage it. The teeth are assessed on the basis of degree of tooth mobility for extraction. Not all mobile require extraction. 

Additionally, any triggers such as uncontrolled diabetes, smoking etc., decrease the treatment success.

The treatment of gum disease reduces overall inflammation in the circulation and decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Click the link for full article on, When is a tooth beyond saving?

Is gum disease contagious 

Gum disease is not contagious. However, oral bacterial can transfer from one person to another through saliva, kissing etc. The development of gum disease depends upon the person oral health and hygiene. 

Reversing gum disease – Can you reverse it 

If you want to reverse your gum disease, consult you dentist. They assess you teeth and determine the grade and stage of disease and plan the treatment accordingly. Early stages of periodontitis are absolutely treatable leaving no traces behind. 

Advanced gum disease usually require a three phase treatment:

  • Active phase 
  • Maintenance phase 
  • Corrective surgical phase 

Related articles

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *