By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist
Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease, referred to as gingivitis, the infection affects the gums. In more severe forms of the disease, all of the tissues are involved.
Recently, there has been increasing evidence to suggest that periodontal disease, which occurs in the mouth, is associated with a large number of other conditions elsewhere in the body. Among the best studied of these are diabetes, preterm birth, low birth weight, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, obesity and osteoporosis. Interestingly, each of these conditions has also been associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
While the association between rheumatoid arthritis and these conditions may be due to medication usage, studies have demonstrated that relationships between rheumatoid arthritis and systemic conditions can still be detected following removal of the medications. A common feature linking these disease associations for both periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis appears to be the presence of chronic inflammation at both local and systemic, or total body, levels.
Simply put, periodontitis or gum disease, is extensive inflammation of the gum that results in tissue destruction. Periodontitis is a common chronic inflammatory disease characterized by destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth. It is highly prevalent, affecting over 70 percent of adults, and has multiple negative impacts on quality of life. Gum disease, not cavities, is the number one reason for tooth extraction.
Epidemiological data confirm that diabetes is a major risk factor for periodontitis, and susceptibility to periodontitis is increased by approximately threefold in people with diabetes. Incidences of end-stage kidney disease are increased significantly in diabetic individuals who also have severe periodontitis, compared to diabetic individuals without severe periodontitis.
Furthermore, the risk of ischemic heart disease and diabetic nephropathy combined, is three times higher in people with diabetes and severe gum disease than in diabetic individuals without severe periodontitis.
If you have diabetes, good oral and periodontal health, should play a significant role in your diabetes management.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst survival rates of all cancers. 94 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis. Survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients could be greatly improved with a better method for finding and diagnosing the cancer at earlier stages. There is no simple screening test for pancreatic cancer, but new research suggests that testing for oral bacteria using a sample of saliva, gum or plaque might help doctors figure out who has the greatest risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Gum disease is very common in Canada. 70 percent of Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives. It is the most common dental problem, and it can progress quite painlessly until you have a real problem. That’s why it is so important to prevent gum disease before it becomes serious. If you have bleeding of the gum when you brush your teeth, it is likely indicating that you have gum disease, and remember to always use a soft toothbrush.
Research demonstrates an association between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis in that they share many of the same manifestations. There is a relationship between disease severity and the potential for periodontal infection to either initiate or modulate rheumatoid arthritis. As much remains unknown about this association, more research is needed to explore the possible connection between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease, and what these data may suggest when it comes to prevention and treatment.
In the meantime, take good care of your teeth and gum, brushing and flossing your teeth daily, and gently massaging your gum with a toothbrush. The signs of gum disease are not always easy to see and can be painless. The earlier gum disease is caught, the easier it is to treat. That is why it is important to see your dentist regularly to possibly prevent rheumatoid arthritis and other serious ailments.
Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.