3 Surprising Things About Periodontal Disease You May Not Know

Dental health is extremely important. The state of one's teeth can affect their ability to eat nutritious foods as well as contribute to their self-esteem and confidence. Periodontal disease affects not only your gums but the structures that surround your teeth and hold them in. Left untreated, periodontal disease will eventually lead to tooth loss. Here are three things you might know about this condition.

Periodontal Disease Is Caused By Bacteria

For many years, scientists didn't know what specific bacterium caused periodontal disease. However, a few years ago, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry pinpointed the bacterium responsible for triggering periodontitis. This is the disease that causes the bone loss around the teeth and leads to the loss of the teeth themselves.

Periodontal Disease Can Technically Be Contagious

The bacterium that is responsible for triggering the inflammatory reaction that leads to periodontitis obviously resides in the mouth. This bacterium can be passed to others by saliva. Activities such as deep-mouth kissing, sharing toothbrushes, and sharing eating utensils or drinking from the same glass can transfer that bacterium to other family members or close friends.

Periodontal Disease May Be Complicit In Other Medical Conditions

Scientists are currently looking into the role of periodontal disease and several other health conditions that may have a connection.

  • Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease is frequently caused by a buildup of a sticky plaque on the arteries. This is not the same plaque that can build up on your teeth, but the same bacterium that triggers inflammation in the gums may play a role in causing inflammation in the heart. Heart disease can also lead to strokes.

  • Pneumonia

Any time there is excess bacteria in the mouth, it can find its way into the rest of the respiratory tract. This could potentially cause bacterial pneumonia or other respiratory and lung diseases. This is especially concerning in the elderly or in people with compromised immune systems.

  • Diabetes

Researchers believe that periodontal disease in diabetics can make it harder for them to control their blood sugar. Uncontrolled blood sugar in the diabetic can cause additional complications.

Links are also being looked at for erectile dysfunction, Alzheimer's disease, premature birth and low birth weight, and even cancer. For these reasons, it more important than ever to make sure you are brushing and flossing properly as well as getting regular cleanings and checkups.