Although tooth decay is a common chronic disease, scrupulous oral care that includes brushing and flossing daily is the best preventative measure. Left untreated, gingvitus—or inflamed gums—can advance to periodontitis, an oral infection that causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, and destroys the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place.
Although age alone increases the risk factor for developing gum disease, older adults who take several medications are more likely to experience dry mouth, a condition that reduces the flow of saliva and increases the risk of infection and tooth decay, says the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Increasing evidence suggests periodontal disease is a causal factor in several other diseases.
People who have difficulties with blood sugar are more inclined to develop periodontal disease than diabetic patients who control blood sugar levels; and periodontal disease directly affects the ability to control diabetes, according to The Gum Disease — Diabetes Project.
Inflammation is directly related to heart disease and may account for some previously unexplained heart attacks, says the Cleveland Clinic. Some cardiologists suggest all patients at risk for heart disease should have a C-reactive protein test to determine the level of inflammation present in their bodies.
Excessive oral bacteria can weaken the immune system and worsen chronic health conditions such as emphysema and other lung conditions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Although the medical community believes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is caused by long-term smoking and other environmental toxins, some suggest the bacteria from untreated oral infections can travel to the lungs and cause repeated infections in COPD patients, says the American Academy of Periodontology.