The link between periodontitis and a myriad of systemic diseases has been a hot research topic as of late. While no causal links have been established, we do know that several systemic diseases that interfere with the body’s inflammatory system (such as cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes) worsen the condition of the gums.
Diabetes has been closely linked with periodontal disease progression. Recently, periodontitis has been named the sixth complication of diabetes. Diabetic patients are more susceptible to periodontitis, although level of susceptibility if correlated with the stability of blood sugar. Thus, if blood sugar levels remain well-controlled and stable the effect is negligible. Research has shown that the relationship between diabetes and periodontitis is bidirectional. That is, severe periodontitis can increase blood sugar, leading to poorer diabetic control and poor diabetic control can exacerbate or worsen periodontitis.
Research has suggested that periodontitis increases the risk of heart disease. While a causal relationship has not yet been proven, researchers hypothesize that this link is due to inflammation caused by periodontitis. Additionally, periodontitis can exacerbate existing heart conditions.
Research has suggested a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. This link has been proposed as osteoporosis can cause reduced bone mineral density of the jaw, reducing the support of the teeth and thus weakening their foundation.
Researchers have found that bacteria common with periodontal disease can be aspirated into the lungs, contributing to various respiratory diseases (like pneumonia).
A correlation has been found between men with periodontitis and cancer, showing that men with periodontitis were 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, and 30% more likely to develop various blood cancers versus similar men without periodontal disease.
Put simply, research has validated that periodontal health can have a MAJOR impact on general health. Therefore, to maintain good overall health you must also maintain good periodontal health.