Your liver serves many important roles in the body. Besides filtering toxins out of your blood, it also synthesizes proteins, produces the biochemicals you need for healthy digestion, produces hormones, and even helps with the decomposition of red blood cells. It should be unsurprising, then, that when this important organ stops functioning as it should, the results can be deadly.
When your normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, the liver can no longer function as intended. This disease is called cirrhosis, and it’s most commonly caused by excessive alchohol consumptions, hepatitis B or C, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Cirrhosis develops slowly over the course of months or even years, and can often be difficult to spot in the early stages.
Annually, cirrhosis affects almost 3 million people globally, and nearly half of those cases are deadly. And recently, researchers have found an unlikely indicator for the likelihood of cirrhosis being fatal: Periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease.
The Link Between Periodontitis and Cirrhosis
A recent study at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark examined the oral health of 184 patients suffering from cirrhosis. For one year, researchers kept tabs on the participants’ oral health based on standard periodontology criteria.
When the study began, 44% of the enrolled participants had severe periodontitis. Over the course of the following year of follow-up, almost half of the participants died. After adjusting for age, gender, tobacco and alcohol use, and a few other relevant factors, the researchers were able to strongly conclude that those cirrhosis patients who also suffer from periodontitis had significantly higher mortality rates.
However, researchers aren’t sure what’s the link between the two conditions, or whether treating gum disease can improve outcomes for these patients.
The Risks of Gum Disease
Periodontitis is a bacterial infection. Consistent, effective oral hygiene like brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly for checkups can prevent periodontitis in most cases. Despite this, nearly half of Americans suffer from at least mild gum disease.
In the early stages, periodontitis can simply mean gums that bleed easily, or appear swollen. But as it progresses, the effects get worse. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss worldwide.
And cirrhosis isn’t the only potential health risk tied to gum disease. In fact, periodontitis is tied to a number of other, more serious conditions. For example, some studies have shown that gum disease is a major contributor to heart disease risk. Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide, this is a serious assocation. Gum disease has also been linked to breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women. Research has shown that gum disease can quadruple your risk of chronic kidney disease, and it may even increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Luckily, gum disease treatment can reduce or eliminate these increased health risks. Our office has advanced gum disease treatment technology that can eliminate periodontitis quickly and easily.