Medical Consequences

Periodontal disease results from the inflammatory response mounted by the body against the bacteria found in dental plaque. Bacteria are known to enter the bloodstream during routine eating and tooth brushing. In certain types of periodontal disease bacteria are even known to invade the tissues around the teeth. Depending on the periodontal disease severity, the health of the individual may be adversely affected by the bacteria, the inflammation present, or some combination of the two:

Cardiovascular disease:

Individuals with periodontal disease are known to be at increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

Strokes:

Studies have demonstrated a 3-fold increase in risk of developing a stroke in people with periodontal disease.

Childbirth:

Low term birth weights are found to a significantly higher degree in the children of mothers who have moderate to severe periodontal disease.

Diabetes:

Long standing diabetics are at a significantly greater risk of developing periodontal disease than non-diabetics. As well, blood sugar levels are higher in the diabetic patient with periodontal disease than in those without periodontal disease. In addition, the dosages of medicine required to stabilize blood sugar may be higher in the diabetic individual who also has periodontal disease. Interestingly, dosages needed to stabilize blood sugar may then be lowered once the periodontal infection is resolved.

Respiratory disease:

There is increasing evidence that the bacteria responsible for local infection surrounding the teeth may find their way into the lungs. This may enhance the risk of such infections as pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

Bacteria associated with periodontal disease in an individual have been shown capable of being transmitted to other individuals with whom a person may have close contact, such as a spouse or child. It is unclear whether or not the transmission of these bacteria from the affected individual may then cause periodontal disease in the other person.

Higher risk patients:

Individuals associated with any of the following factors are known to be at higher risk of developing periodontal disease:

  1. Cigarette smoking
  2. Chronic stress
  3. Sedentary and overweight
  4. Individuals with compromised immune systems