Health Risks of Gum Disease

Health Risks of Gum Disease

In light of the fact that September is Gum Disease Awareness Month, let’s look at an often overlooked topic. Would you be surprised to learn that there is a connection between your oral health and your overall health? Because we live in an era of specialization, it is easy to forget that the body is a complex machine made up of parts that depend upon the correct function of every other part.

Research definitely shows that your oral health has a significant impact on your whole body health. By taking care of your teeth and gums, you not only get a beautiful smile, you enhance the health of your entire body. But if you are not practicing proper oral care, you could be setting the stage for serious health problems down the road.

Whole Body Health

As unpleasant as it may be to think about, your mouth is actually full of bacteria of all kinds. Most bacteria are completely harmless. By brushing and flossing daily, you are ensuring that the harmful bacterial load in your mouth remains low. If you are neglecting your oral care, problems can develop.

As the bad bacteria in your mouth begin multiplying and they can begin attacking your tooth enamel and irritate gum tissue as well as cause damage to supporting structures.  Over time these bacteria and inflammation can play a role in some systemic diseases or conditions. Research shows that the advanced form of periodontal disease can be linked with other health problems such as stroke and cardiovascular disease.  Regarding the conditions below, although periodontal disease may contribute to them, it’s important to recognize that although there is an association they are not in a cause and effect relationship. 

Heart Health

Some evidence suggests that oral bacteria could be linked to arterial blockages and heart disease.  These bacteria are capable of entering your bloodstream and traveling to sites other than the mouth.  These are most typically associated with gingivitis, periodontitis, infections and chronic inflammation.  Studies have shown that some of these bacteria that are found in the mouth may have a role in developing atherosclerosis, endocarditis and their DNA has been found in blockages of heart attack and stroke patients.  


Patients who already have diabetes may experience decreased blood flow, nutrients and ability to fight off inflammation in the mouth. Additionally the increased glucose in your oral fluids promotes the growth and damage of bad bacteria, leading to even more inflammation – a vicious cycle.  According to the Journal of the American Dental Association individuals with severe gum disease have..

  • higher long-term blood sugar levels
  • higher risk of developing type II diabetes
  • have a harder time controlling their type II diabetes 
  • Are at a higher risk of experiencing harm to eyes and kidneys as well as heart attack and strokes. 

To help address and combat this consistent cleanings and periodontal therapy can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels and improved diabetes management. 

Signs of Gum Disease

Some signs that you may have gum disease include:

    • Chronically red and swollen gums
    • Gums that are tender
    • Gums that bleed easily

Gum Disease Affects Pregnancy

Gum disease can have a negative impact on pregnant women. It can cause existing dental problems to become worse. Gum disease can even cause babies to be born prematurely or have a low birth weight.

The Bottom Line

The takeaway here is that maintaining the health of your teeth and gums is vitally important for whole body health. Every part of the body is connected in some way to every other part and prevention is key. So be sure to keep up with your regular brushing and flossing at home, as well as staying on track with your routine dental exam and cleaning appointments.

Thanks for your support!

– Dr. Houlik



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