Gum infections may mean a host of other diseases

  • Published
  • By Dental health
  • 82nd Dental Squadron
Studies have shown a possible link between periodontal, or gum, disease and several systemic diseases.

Capt. (Dr.) Daniel Palazzolo, 82nd Dental Squadron, said there have been many well documented cases of diabetic patients having an increased risk for periodontitis.

However, he said it has also been shown that gum treatment in diabetic patients with periodontitis helps to improve diabetic conditions and the severity of diabetes.

Captain Palazzolo said gum infections may make a woman more susceptible for pre-term low birth weight babies.

"The research has revealed that the risk for a mother with periodontitis delivering a preterm low birth weight baby may be as high as 7.5 times that of a person who does not have gum disease."

Evidence has shown that women with periodontitis who were treated during pregnancy have a pre-term low birth rate of 1.8 percent, while those who were not treated during pregnancy had a five-fold increase.

Recently, there is also modest evidence to support a link between periodontitis and cerebro-vascular disease and coronary heart disease.

"High levels of a compound called C Reactive Protein within the body is associated with an increased risk of cerebro-vascular events," Captain Palazzolo explained. "Patients with periodontitis have significantly elevated levels of this compound when compared to healthy control subjects. This leads to a risk of having a stroke that is two-to-three times the levels that are seen in patients without gum disease."

Some may wonder what the connection is between periodontitis and the other diseases. Captain Palazzolo explained periodontal disease is a chronic, often long-standing infection that may go unresolved for many years before it is treated. Infections within the gums can release several toxic cells into the bloodstream that can travel through the circulatory system to have an effect on many different organs within the body.

Captain Palazzolo said while it is unlikely that gum disease exclusively will cause another disease, the evidence suggests that it may be a contributing factor.

If there are questions, call the 82nd DS at 676-4474.