Part of the disregard of gum disease is due to lack of awareness — most who have gum disease simply don’t know they have it. The typical warning signs of puffy, red gums, bleeding or persistent bad breath don’t materialize until the disease has reached a severe level.

Body disease potential

Swelling links gum disease and heart disease. In heart disease, swollen and hardened arteries decrease the flow of blood to your heart, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Swollen gums are a main symptom of gum disease with the infection below the gum line. Bacteria can now travel throughout the body via the many vascular pathways in the mouth, including those leading back to the heart.

Researchers found that severe gum disease increased the risk of an ischemic stroke, particularly for men and for subjects under 60 years of age. Post-menopausal women who have gum disease have a 14 percent overall increased risk of breast cancer. The percentage jumps to over 30 percent if the woman smokes or has smoked in the past 20 years.

Research has shown links between gum disease and several other systemic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.

Root causes

Evidence suggests inflammation could be the connection between these diseases. As a result, treating the bacterial infection causing inflammation in the gums might help manage connected systemic conditions.

“Gum disease has also been connected to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, pancreatic cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and pre-term birth, among other conditions.”

There is a difference between treatment and successful treatment. Some dental laser procedures can kill bacteria without harming healthy tissue. In March 2016, the FDA cleared one procedure to regenerate the bone and tissues lost to gum disease. If you consider laser treatment, know there are different types of dental lasers with different wavelengths and results. Ask about the research and FDA clearances associated with both the laser and procedure.

Take charge of your total health with a periodontal checkup at your next dental visit.