How Gum Disease Affects Your Whole Body

animation of dental bacteria and the human body

Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. will develop gum disease at some time in their lives. If you are over age 65, your risk of gum disease is 70%. Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of gum disease, and the risk increases if you do not see your dentist regularly.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the tissues supporting and surrounding your teeth. In its mildest form, gingivitis, early intervention can stop the infection and prevent further damage. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, gum disease can damage the gums, bones, and connective tissues that hold your teeth in place. Infection, receding gums, and tooth loss often follow.

The Connection Between Gum Disease and Systemic Health

Unfortunately, gum disease can also affect your overall health. The mouth is a gateway to the rest of the body. Numerous studies show that gum disease contributes to an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer. Although the “how and why” of this connection isn’t fully understood, the likely culprit is chronic inflammation which plays a role in these diseases.

The Connection Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease

Individuals with periodontitis may develop heart disease due to chronic inflammation. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response that leads to heart inflammation. As a result, patients develop atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

The Connection Between Gum Disease and the Respiratory System

Recent studies indicate a link between gum disease and respiratory health. Periodontal infections can contribute to pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and acute respiratory infections. There may be multiple ways gum disease affects your breathing, including aspiration of bacterial infection, chronic inflammation, and a weakened immune system.

The Diabetes and Gum Disease Connection

Diabetes and gum disease are frequently linked to a vicious cycle of inflammation and poor health. Each influences and exacerbates the other. Inflammation and infection due to gum disease can make it more difficult to manage fluctuating blood sugar and insulin levels. If you have diabetes, it is also more difficult to treat active gum disease due to a compromised immune system and poor blood flow. Uncontrolled blood sugar can also contribute to gum disease due to higher bacterial levels in the mouth.

Signs of Gum Disease

Protecting yourself against gum disease can help prevent other, more serious health concerns throughout the body. Good oral hygiene and vigilance in watching for the early symptoms of gum disease are crucial. Signs you may have gum disease include:

  • Gums that are bright red or dark
  • Gums easily bleed when flossing or brushing
  • Bad breath that does not go away
  • Painful chewing
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Receding gums
  • Chronic toothaches
  • Loose teeth

If you have any of the above symptoms, you must see your dentist as soon as possible to begin treatment and prevent its progression. To avoid having to treat periodontal disease, which can be difficult to control, see your dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and routine cleanings. Contact our dental office in Lombard IL at Lombard IL Cosmetic Dentistry Office Phone Number 630-627-1495 today to schedule your appointment.