You probably know that gum disease can cause serious problems for your teeth, perhaps even make you lose them.

But did you know it can lead to a host of very serious diseases throughout your body?

Researchers are increasingly linking gum disease, formally called periodontal disease, to stroke, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

What is gum disease?

In its mildest form, gum disease is called gingivitis. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.

Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, in which toxins produced by bacteria in plaque beneath the gum line can eventually spread to other body systems through the bloodstream.

British physician Dr. Christoffer Van Tulleken recently explored this phenomenon in a two-part BBC series. For a two-week period, he wore a gum guard on one side of his mouth so that he never got it cleaned when he brushed his teeth.

He purposely developed mild gum disease, and lab tests that tracked the action of white blood cells in his body showed that his entire body had become inflamed as a result of the gum infection. Such chronic inflammation has been linked to those serious diseases I spoke of earlier.

Van Tulleken, an infectious disease specialist, came away from the experience with a new appreciation for how important good dental hygiene and periodontal care is.

“This crucial connection between the health of your gums and the health of your entire body is relatively neglected by doctors,” he wrote in the Daily Mail. “As a result, we miss many opportunities to educate patients about the importance of dental care.”

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, researchers found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer,54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.

What we can do

At Anderson & Zentz Dental, we’ve long recognized the important role that healthy gums play in your overall health. That’s why one of the services we offer is periodontal therapy. We aggressively treat gum disease, and tailor periodontal treatment to you, whether you need one cleaning a year or four visits to keep you healthy.

You can do your part by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily. Flossing? Yes, it can be a pain, but here’s a tip: do it while you’re relaxing in front of the TV at night. While you’re enjoying your favorite show, you’ll be far less likely to even realize you’re doing it. Soon flossing will be a habit, one that could just save your life.

If you would like to learn more about periodontal therapy, please don’t hesitate to ask me.