Numerous scientific journals have published reports examining the link between gum disease and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pre-term deliveries in pregnant women.
A link has been proven between control of blood sugar (glycemic control) in diabetics and periodontal disease. Patients who have gum disease have worse control over their diabetes then those with healthy gums. The reverse is also true, patients with diabetes are more apt to have periodontal disease, and it is often more severe.
While not proven absolutely, numerous studies have shown a strong link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. Elevated levels of the certain proteins (C-reactive protein, fibronectin) have been identified in the blood of patients with both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. It is thought that the chronic inflammation seen with gum disease causes these proteins to be released into the bloodstream, leading to a similar situation to that seen in cardiovascular disease. Also, certain bacteria found only in the mouth that are seen at higher levels in patients with gum disease, have also been identified in atherosclerotic plaques, hardened deposits which form in blood vessels and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Periodontal bacteria are thus “found at the scene of the crime”, lending even more evidence to the association between gum and cardiovascular disease.
A link has also been seen between women who have periodontal disease and are pregnant and delivering pre-term, low birth weight babies. Studies have shown that certain bacteria found in high numbers in the mouths of patients with periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and actually cause premature contractions of the uterus. Pre-term birth can be a very serious problem and women thinking of conceiving are strongly urged to treat any gum disease first. It is also important to maintain good oral hygiene and visit a dentist or periodontist regularly during pregnancy to control inflammation of the gums as best as possible.