Does it hurt or bleed when you brush your teeth? Or do you experience bad breath often and notice plague buildups onto your gum line? Well, perhaps you are from the 80% of Americans who have some sort of gum disease.
Can gum disease kill you? We hated to tell you this, but YES, gum disease can kill you. We might sound exaggerating, but gum disease can be severe and sometimes lead to heart damage. Bacterial gum disease, like gingivitis, could be life-threatening as it eventually leads to endocarditis.
Apart from that, other oral dental conditions like gum recession, bad taste, sensitivity and breath can be frustrating and turn your life upside down. Therefore, we decided to walk you through some important facts about gum disease and ways to manage your oral health.
What is Gingivitis, and How does it affect your Health?
Gingivitis is a prevalent gum disease affecting half of the Americans in the United States. But the question is, can you actually die from Gingivitis? We will get to that after learning about this disease.
Gingivitis, also called periodontitis, is a mild type of gum disease that occurs due to a bacterial infection and causes inflammation.
Symptoms of Gingivitis:
Healthy gums are usually pink and firm. When you get a gum disease, you can immediately notice the changes in your gums, they could be like:
- Puffy gums
- Purplish, dusky or bright red gums
- Tenderness in gums when touched
- bleeding gums
- Pink-tinged bristles of your toothbrush after brushing
- Bleeding after flossing or brushing
- Puss between gums and teeth
- Bad breath
- Loss of teeth
- Loose teeth
- Painful chewing
- Gums detaching from teeth, making them look longer
- Spaces between teeth
Stages of Gingivitis:
You probably be thinking how such common symptoms can be dreadful. Learn about the four stages of gingivitis and see how these bleeding gums can lead to a deadly infection if left untreated.
Stage 1 - Gingivitis:
This is the first and only reversible stage of bacterial infection. It is characterized by bleeding or puffy gums. If you take proper care of your teeth at this stage, you might prevent the development of the infection.
Stage 2 - Slight Periodontal Disease:
By this stage, your symptoms become severe and irreversible. Now, the only way to deal with it is by managing them. The infection at this stage can spread from the gums to the bones and might cause tooth loss.
Stage 3 - Moderate Periodontal Disease:
At this stage, it’s no more gingivitis. It’s now periodontitis. After attacking your bones, it enters your bloodstream. Most dentists recommend scaling and root planning as the mandatory step to restore the gum’s health.
Stage 4 - Advanced Periodontal Disease:
It is the stage when the infection teams up with disease-causing bacteria. The patient may experience red and swollen gums filled with pusses and loose teeth. Chewing and biting are painful at this stage and might lead to tooth loss. Laser therapy or periodontal surgery is crucial at this point.
Can Gingivitis Kill You?
By now, you probably be questioning yourself ‘can a gum disease kill you? Well, not sure about other gum diseases but yes, untreated gingivitis can kill you.
The infection slowly spreads in your body and attacks your organs. As a result, you may experience trouble breathing, pain behind your eyes, or cardiovascular problems. Those affected by Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG), face even severe complications. This type of gingivitis promotes the growth of ulcers in your gums, eventually leading to tooth loss, holes in gums, and gum tissue damage.
In some cases, (ANUG) Gingivitis can lead to gangrene in which tissues around your lip, cheek and gums must be removed as a part of treatment.
If you are diagnosed with Gingivitis and suddenly experiencing severe symptoms, it’s important to find a quick treatment.
How Does Gingivitis Affect Your Organs?
While the research is still going on to determine how gum disease hugely influences other chronic diseases, there are some lethal diseases, and their link to Gingivitis is explained by researchers.
Gingivitis and Heart Disease
Studies have shown that gingivitis, particularly periodontitis, causes chronic inflammation in your body, leading to arteries narrowing and ultimately exacerbating heart disease. And reports show that around 610,000 people die yearly because of a heart attack in the United States.
Another research done on 57,001 older adults aged around 68 showed that 3.816 of them died during the initial seven years of the study. It was further found that women who lost their teeth have a 17% higher chance of developing heart diseases.
Gingivitis and a Killer Stroke
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Ischemic stroke, one of the fatal types of stroke, can be linked to gum disease. It causes the blood flow to the brain to stop, leading to stroke.
Research done on 303 patients suffering acute ischemic stroke showed that those with gum pockets bigger than 6mm were at a higher risk of stroke as compared to those with 3mm. And if you don’t know, gum pockets are the major symptom of gingivitis.
The studies also revealed that people with severe gingivitis are at a double greater risk than those with mild symptoms of getting Ischemic Cerebrovascular Stroke or Hemorrhagic, and in some cases, it can lead to the patient’s death.
Gingivitis and Respiratory Diseases
If you have chronic respiratory issues and a slow immune system as a result of it, then it is difficult for you to battle gum diseases like gingivitis. The bacteria in this disease enter into your lungs and cause exacerbate COPD and pneumonia.
Statistics revealed that COPD is one of the major causes of death in the United States and kills around 120,000 Americans every year. Periodontal bacteria which get into the lungs could cause irritation and inflammation, as a result of which the person feels difficult to breathe.
Gingivitis and Cancer
In a cancer study, researchers have reported that people with Gingivitis or periodontitis are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer than those without gum disease.
In fact, people who lost their teeth because of severe gingivitis had 80% chance of getting colorectal cancer. The same goes for non-smokers who had gingivitis. Moreover, pancreatic cancer has also been observed prevailing among gum disease patients but not at a significant level.
Gingivitis and Stomach Ulcers
If you often experience cramps and have had stomach ulcers, you probably have Helicobacter pylori (H pylori). It is a bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers and gastritis in your stomach. While it’s not fatal, it can sometimes turn into gastric cancer and cause the death of the patient.
A research study done on 101 people (50% with H pylori) showed that the majority of the patients had the same pathogen in their mouth as in their stomach, and chances are high that it had been traveling from gums to their stomachs and causing peptic ulcers.
If gingivitis is taken care of in its early stages, then there are high chances that it will eliminate the risk of stomach ulcers.
Gingivitis and Diabetes
It’s common that people with diabetes, precisely Type 2, are at double the risk of getting periodontitis. However, it is said that there is a two-way relationship between gum diseases and diabetes.
It can be explained as when bacteria from your gums transmit into the bloodstream, your immune system becomes active and tries to fight those bacteria, resulting in imbalanced blood sugar levels and making it difficult for the body to control. And high blood sugars make gingivitis even worse.
Therefore, it is important to get a periodontitis procedure done to kill bacteria in your gums and regulate blood sugar levels.
Gingivitis and Pregnancy
Pregnancy and gum disease are co-related. Due to hormonal changes, most women are most likely to develop gum diseases. However, those who already have gum issues experience severe gingivitis during pregnancy.
A research study done on 12 weeks’ pregnant women in London, the UK showed that 131 of 1793 gave pre-mature birth while 16 of them had a late miscarriage. Hence, periodontitis/gingivitis has been linked as a major factor for pre-mature deliveries and late miscarriages.
Gingivitis and Alzheimer’s Disease
Another research is done to determine if gingivitis is linked to Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, no link has been found between the two. However, patients with chronic gingivitis/periodontitis for 10 or more have a 70% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
It happens when a bacteria called Spirochetes crosses the blood-brain border, enters the brain, and starts multiplying and affecting your brain. To tackle this issue, your body’s natural defense system gets activated to fight those outside pathogens, and as a result, you experience inflammation, fogginess and, in worse cases, dementia and, ultimately, death.
If you are still wondering about ‘can gum disease kill you’, think again. You have been overlooking a rather big problem. But worry not. Below are some preventative measures that will surely help you avoid this condition in the first place.
6 Ways to Maintain the Health of the Gums
Oral health is important to having a healthy life. Practicing a proper hygiene routine can prevent potential gum disease. Despite its great importance, many people overlook their gums and experience severe health complications. Below we have suggested habits to help you maintain your oral health.
It is no secret that brushing teeth is key to having healthy teeth and gums. Here is what the American Dental Association suggests:
- Use a soft bristle toothbrush for everyday brushing and a toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Brush at least twice a day
- Try to change the toothbrush every 4 to 5 months or as soon as the bristles wear out.
- Brush at a 45-degree angle
- Brush gently and slowly towards the gums
- Turn the brush vertically to clean the back sides of the teeth and make short strokes on each tooth.
Picking the Right Toothpaste
Try to pick a toothpaste that not only works to whiten your teeth but contains fluoride. Also, while purchasing toothpaste, ensure it bears the ADA seal of approval on the top.
Flossing is the foremost step in maintaining a healthy oral regime. The ADA has recognized it as a crucial part of oral care.
When you floss daily, it instantly removes the small piece of food between your teeth and gums. Skipping it would lead to tartar (buildups of bacteria and plaque) that only dentists can remove. If the situation is left untreated, it could lead to severe gum disease.
Rinse Mouth after Eating
It is advised that one should rinse their mouth properly after having a meal. This would help wash out all the bacteria that may come with the food and lead to the accumulation of plaque and tartar.
For better oral hygiene, good mouthwash is equally important as good toothpaste. Typically, two types of mouthwashes are available over the shelf: cosmetics and therapeutic.
The cosmetic one is used to whiten teeth and freshen the breath. While the latter has more health benefits. It helps:
- Prevent gum diseases
- Reduces tartar and plaque buildups
- Wash out hidden food particles from the mouth
Note: Mouthwash is an additional product that should be used after brushing and flossing. It can’t be used in the exchange of them.
Like toothpastes, you must also check the ADA seal on your mouthwashes as it denotes the product’s safety and effectiveness. As per ADA guidelines, children above 6 should start using mouthwashes to eliminate the risk of severe oral health complications.
Visit the Dentist at least twice a year
Keep track of your dental health by visiting the dentist at least twice a year. Dental checkups normally include a deep cleaning session of the mouth. It removes the plaque and food particles that must have been missed while brushing your teeth.
Dental checkups are important as your dentist will properly examine your oral health and let you know if you encounter unusual conditions like swelling or inflammation. If needed, they will start taking preventive measures to prevent more severe issues.
Gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis can kill you if they reach their worst stage. However, you can dodge death if you detect the disease in its early stages.
The best way to prevent any kind of dental condition is by consistently following a proper oral hygiene plan throughout life because prevention is better than cure.
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