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Gum Disease affects more people than heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes combined. It is also linked to those conditions, along with pre-term birth and rheumatoid arthritis. Three out four people already have or will have periodontal or gum disease. Smokers are three times more likely to have periodontal disease and to actually lose some of their teeth than non-smokers. Gum disease also increases the risk of pneumonia for respiratory sufferers. 

Because the mouth is the gateway to the body, infection in the mouth can be a vital indicator of what is going on in the system as a whole. Periodontal infection is generally caused by a combination of stress, acidity, and improper oral hygiene. Redness and bleeding upon brushing and flossing signal inflammation, indicating that the immune system is releasing white blood cells to resist the build up of bacteria.

As immune cells die off the bacteria tend to survive relatively unaffected. proteolytic enzymes meant for bacterial break-down are released into the gums, causing the tissue to break down instead. This causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating open pockets that breed more bacteria. As this process continues bone around the teeth will be re-absorbed, until an advanced stage where tooth loss may occur.

All this may occur without any symptoms or pain, which is why the Surgeon General has named periodontal disease “the silent epidemic.” During the stages of this disease bacteria from the gums may access our bloodstream, traveling to the brain and other organs such as the heart. Research has been published showing that fatal coronary heart disease is twice as likely and stroke is three times more likely in patients with periodontal infection than in those without.

In all cases, early discovery and treatment of gum problems is the key.