Long-term gum infection can eventually result in the loss of your teeth. But the consequences may not end there. Recent research suggests that there may be an association between oral infections — primarily gum infections — and poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preterm birth. More research is needed to determine whether oral infections actually cause these conditions, which include:
- Poorly controlled diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you're already at increased risk of developing gum disease. But chronic gum disease may, in fact, make diabetes more difficult to control, as well. Infection may cause insulin resistance, which disrupts blood sugar control.
- Cardiovascular disease.
Oral inflammation due to bacteria (gingivitis) may also play a role in clogged arteries and blood clots. It appears that bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries. This inflammation may serve as a base for development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, possibly increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Some research suggests that people with gum infections are also at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The more severe the infection, the greater the risk appears to be. And gum disease and tooth loss may contribute to plaques in the carotid artery. In one study, 46 percent of participants who'd lost up to nine teeth had carotid artery plaque; among those who'd lost 10 or more teeth, 60 percent of them had such plaque.
- Preterm birth.
Severe gum disease may increase the risk of preterm delivery and giving birth to a low birth weight baby. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, in fact, estimates that as many as 18 percent of preterm, low birth weight babies each year may be attributed to oral infections. The theory is that oral bacteria release toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother's bloodstream and interfere with the growth and development of the fetus. At the same time, the oral infection causes the mother to produce labor-triggering substances too quickly, potentially triggering premature labor and birth.
It is always best to have regular examinations with your dentist to determine your risk. The longer you wait, the further the damage may be. Dont delay and arrange a full checkup today, for the sake of your longevity.