Are Oral Bacteria Serious?
Oral bacteria causing infections in gum tissue may threaten more than your teeth and gums. Research has established associations between oral bacteria and systemic diseases including:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory Disease
- Blood Clots
- Preterm and Low Birth Weight Babies Chronic Inflammation
The theories linking oral bacteria to other diseases explain that the mouth may be a portal for bacteria to spread to the rest of your body.
If you have been diagnosed with gum disease for example, pathogenic bacteria are likely forming colonies that cause localized inflammation and damage in your gum tissue. Those bacteria may enter the bloodstream through small ulcers in your gum tissue.
The growth of bacteria in periodontal pockets occurs in three stages. After the first stage of attachment, the bacteria form a colony with a filmy or slimy protective covering. The most advanced stage of bacterial growth involves clumps of bacteria detaching from the colony to form new infections.
The bacterial infection, like the colony growing on the tooth surface in this illustration, spreads when small clumps of bacteria detach in a “seeding” effect to form new infections. Left unchecked, bacteria growing in the protective colonies in periodontal pockets can lead to the destruction of teeth and eventually the bone supporting the teeth. Because the bacteria may spread through your body to threaten more than your teeth and gums, it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors and treat any infected areas of your mouth.
Assessing Your Risk Factors For Disease
People who have a family history of disease may be genetically predisposed and need to discuss ways to protect their health with their doctor. It is important for everyone to eat right, not smoke, and take care of their oral health.
Heart Disease, Stroke, Hardening of the Arteries (atherosclerosis)
Once oral bacteria enter the body, they may cause inflammation, which in combination with fat deposits can lead to a buildup of plaque clogging blood flow and to a buildup of blood platelets causing blood clots. These conditions may be responsible for heart attacks, strokes, and other dangerous health conditions.
Controlling gum disease has a positive effect in controlling diabetes. Diabetic patients with gum disease have a higher blood sugar level and require more medication to manage their diabetes. When the gum disease was treated, the blood sugar levels decreased and stayed lower for 3 months.
The bacteria present in gum disease have also been located in lung tissue in patients with lung abscesses. Biopsies of the diseased lung tissue found the same bacteria that are present in the gum disease.
The bacteria associated with Alzheimer’s Disease have been isolated in the periodontal pockets and along the nerves from the teeth to the brain tissue. When these bacteria are introduced into brain cultures, beta amyloid is formed, which is the substance that is a cause of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Pre-term and Low Birth Weight Babies
Pregnant women also have an increased incidence of gum disease. It has been demonstrated that an inflammatory product caused by the bacterial gum infection can cause a woman’s uterus to contract. Pregnant women with gum disease have a 57% incidence of low birth weight babies and a 50% greater incidence of preterm deliveries. Researchers continue to examine these correlations to determine the relationship between gum disease and pregnancy.
As research continues, it is important to understand that oral bacterial infections are serious and that they should be treated.