Periodontitis, commonly referred to as gum disease, is characterized by a build-up of bacteria in the mouth. This disease causes irritation in the gums and the fundamental tooth structure and in turn, causes inflammation between the gums and teeth.
Pockets begin to form as the gums separate from the teeth. Infection in the gums then occurs when these pockets become infected with different bacteria. With this infection, a person will experience redness and swelling in the gums and they may experience bleeding when brushing their teeth.
Untreated periodontitis can ultimately lead to serious health risks, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma and osteoporosis. In fact, this condition is the leading cause of tooth loss and is highly associated with high blood pressure. As the gums and teeth become inflamed, other parts of the body become inflamed too, such as the blood vessels and arteries, which cause an increase in blood pressure.
Higher blood pressure resulting from gum disease has been the subject of many articles recently. In one study from Reuters’ Health research, “Researchers analyzed data from the annual U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2014 on adults over age 30 with hypertension who underwent a dental exam, including 3,626 who said they were currently taking medication to control high blood pressure and 460 who said they were not.” Based on the dental exam findings, about 52% of participants with high blood pressure also had periodontal disease.
Early identification and treatment of periodontitis, or gum disease, is imperative for preventing further health complications like high blood pressure. Depending on your age, tobacco use, genetics, stress levels and more, you might be at risk for developing periodontitis and associated health issues.