Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S. As devastating as that is, it can be even worse.
In the mouth, early stage periodontal (gum) disease causes gums to bleed when brushing, bad breath and gum tenderness. As the disease progresses, gums turn red and pus pockets form at the base of some teeth. As the infectious bacteria attack the bone structures that support tooth roots, teeth will begin to loosen and may need removing.
From decades of research, a link has been found between the bacteria of gum disease and many serious health problems. The infectious bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through diseased gum tissues, causing inflammatory triggers. This inflammation has been linked to heart disease, stroke, memory loss, preterm babies, diabetes and impotency.
For people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), many are learning that research is noting close connections with arthritis and gum disease, too. Apparently, gum disease and RA share a genetic similarity. The clinical makeup shows similar structures, primarily in pathogens that spark disease or illness. Research has found that the pathological process that occurs in both gum disease and RA are nearly identical.
Both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone with both diseases having a similar inflammatory trigger. Even more similar is the particular species of bacteria found in periodontally-diseased tissues when compared with tissues around arthritic joints. In one study, a particular pathogen associated with periodontal disease was found to activate the same destructive process of rheumatoid arthritis.
RA is a debilitating, painful disease that destroys joints. RA often emerges gradually, initially causing morning stiffness and weak, sore muscles. As inflammation from RA worsens, joints become swollen. Joints become achy and stiff most often in the fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, toes and neck. Unfortunately, there is no cure for RA.
On a positive note, studies have shown that treating periodontal disease in RA patients helps to improve RA symptoms. This is felt to occur because of a lighter burden of oral inflammation to the system.
These findings reinforce how oral health correlates closely to our overall health. When you consider how the presence of gum disease can significantly increase your risk for serious health conditions, having good oral health should be a priority for every American. Sadly, statistics show that almost 75% of the U.S. adult population have some level of gum disease.
Recommit yourself to thorough oral hygiene at home and keeping those 6-month check-ups and cleanings. If you have signs of gum disease, have treatment at your earliest convenience. Gum disease will only worsen and requires more treatment time and expense as it progresses.
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