Periodontal literally means “around the tooth”. Infection caused by bacteria that affects the gums and bones is called periodontal disease. This disease can affect just one tooth or many teeth at one time and begins when plaque bacteria enters into the gums and causes them to inflame. A resulting bacterium can travel through the blood stream to other parts of the body, including other organs and systems.

The American Academy of Periodontology has findings that show mouth infections can cause many problems elsewhere in the body. Dental professionals have thought this to be true for a long time. New research now shows that swelling may be connected to periodontal disease and other chronic illnesses. Some include respiratory disease, neck and head cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and preterm labor. More research is being done to confirm these findings and connections.

Major health conditions that are linked to periodontal disease include:

1. Diabetes. Diabetes that is not controlled properly in both young and old people can lead to periodontal disease. Levels of higher glucose found in mouth fluids will stimulate the growth of bacteria resulting in gum disease.
2. Heart disease. Bacteria can enter into the blood stream and affect the heart, attach to fatty plaques in arteries of the heart and contribute to clotting. Research shows that those with periodontal disease are twice as like to suffer from coronary artery disease.
3. Pregnancy. Evidence suggests that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to give birth to a baby who is too small or born too early.
4. Respiratory disease. Bacterial respiratory infections are believed to begin through the inhaling of small droplets from the mouth and throat and into the lungs. These droplets containing germs multiply in the lungs and cause damage. Studies state that bacteria in the throat and mouth can be drawn in the respiratory tract.
5. Stroke. Bacteria can increase stroke risk by getting into the blood stream and begin the clotting process and even cause harm to the lining of blood vessels.

Research is being conducted to find out the cause and effect of periodontal disease and the relation to the body’s health. Even though some studies are not confirmed, others show a direct relation between periodontal disease and systemic diseases. Dentists conduct a complete health history of patients to identify any risks that may affect their health overall, including diet, obesity, smoking. Oral disease and poor oral hygiene may be result in a patient’s declining overall health. According to studies, many people may be at risk for serious health issues due to periodontal disease.