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Silent Killer: Gum Disease


You have just visited your dentist and were informed that you have gum disease! How could this happen when you brush and see your dentist regularly every six months? Seems hard to believe, but people many times hear this when they visit their dentist.

The American Academy of Periodontology, which is the organization responsible for the research and treatment techniques of gum disease, states that approximately 87% of all people in the U.S. have some form of gum disease. This disease can range from gingivitis to periodontitis. This silent, painless killer of teeth can come from nowhere and eventually cause you to loose your beautiful pearls.

The first sign of gum disease is bleeding gums, which means you have an infection present in your mouth. Let this problem go untreated, and eventually you will have pain and loose your teeth.

The only reliable method of detecting early problems is to have your dentist perform a complete periodontal examination, delicately probing all of the gum tissue adjacent to each tooth. The readings taken during this probing will enable your dentist to diagnosis how advanced your disease may be.

As a person ages, they may develop a higher incidence of this disease. Many times, hormonal changes, stress, improper diet, improper hygiene and defective dental restorations can bring gum disease seemingly out of nowhere.

I Had No Idea Periodontal Disease Is Linked to…

You may have seen stories in the news about the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, those aren't the only health conditions that are related to periodontal disease. Research has shown that having periodontal disease can put you at risk for a few surprising conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and even kidney disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Over 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic, inflammatory disease of the joints that can lead to long-term joint damage. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology uncovered yet another potential side effect of RA; researchers discovered that patients with RA are eight times more likely to have periodontal disease than those without RA. However, the research indicates that poor oral hygiene alone did not account for the connection between RA and gum disease, which means that other factors play a role as well. Both RA and gum disease are systemic inflammatory disorders which may explain the connection between the two.


Men are especially at risk for developing certain cancers if they have periodontal disease. Research published in The Lancet Oncology found that men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums. In fact, researchers discovered that men with periodontal disease are 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers.


Kidney Disease

A study published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests that toothless adults may be more likely to have chronic kidney disease than adults with all of their teeth. Untreated periodontal disease can lead to bone loss around teeth, which can then cause teeth to loosen and fall out. Periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults. In the study, the lack of teeth was found to be significantly associated with chronic kidney disease. The two diseases may be connected by chronic inflammation, as both are considered inflammatory conditions.

Protect Yourself

To help protect yourself from these health conditions, including periodontal disease, make sure to brush your teeth twice each day, floss at least once each day, and see a dental professional for cleanings twice each year. If periodontal disease develops, a consultation with a dentist or periodontist may lead to effective treatment. The key to a healthy body may start with a healthy mouth!

Are You at Risk For Periodontal Disease?

Your risk for periodontal disease may increase depending on:

  • Your age
  • Gender
  • Bleeding gums
  • Tobacco use
  • Family history of gum disease

To find out if you may be at risk, take the American Academy of Periodontology’s risk assessment. The assessment will let you know if you are at low, moderate, or high risk for periodontal disease. Your periodontist will be happy to discuss your results with you.

Consequences of Gum DiseaseLaser Gum Disease Treatment  >  Silent Killer: Gum Disease

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