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Understanding the Connection Between Gum Disease and Chronic Diseases

How unhealthy gums impact your health

The connection between gum disease and other diseases has become clearer.

For many years experts believed the worst consequence of gum disease was tooth loss. Now we know that is not always the case.

It's not OK to let gingivitis or gums that bleed go untreated.


Because gum disease can be treated and controlled.

More importantly, gum disease places you at higher risk for many chronic diseases.

I'm not talking about an occasional gum irritation or a spot that bleed because you flossed it extra hard.  This article refers to constant (chronic) gum disease that keeps your gums always inflamed.

Respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease

These are some conditions that have been associated with the bacterial infection and inflammation that occur in those  with gum (periodontal) disease.

With this in mind...taking good care of your teeth and gums should have a high priority.

We can't control everything that impacts our health but with a little effort, everyone can improve the health of their gums.

Bacteria in the bloodstream

Because diseased gums bleed easily, bacteria (found in dental plaque) is free to get into the bloodstream.

When  gums bleed, the bacteria in your mouth can get into your bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream, bacteria can travel anywhere in the body.

Because your body wants to fight against the bacteria, your arteries could become inflamed or blood clots may form making a heart attack or stroke more likely.

Those with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease.

Inhaled bacteria

connection between gum disease and chronic diseases

The connection between gum disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exists because of inhaled bacteria. It is possible to inhale or "breath-in" the bacteria that live in your mouth.

Bacteria gets into your lungs and can cause lung infections. If you are in good health, your body is most likely able to deal with the stray bacteria that might find their way into your lungs.

Those with COPD are especially vulnerable to inhaled bacteria. Because their lungs are weaker, they are much more likely to develop bacterial respiratory infections like pneumonia.

The main cause of COPD is smoking. Gum disease can make it worse.


Gum disease is inflammation of your gums. If you have gum disease you also have a higher than normal amount of C reative protein. C reactive protein is made by your liver in response to inflammation.

Inflammation, measured by C reactive protein, is a recently discovered risk factor for heart disease. Some experts believe it is more important than cholesterol levels.

C reactive protein is a possible connection between gum disease and heart disease.

Diabetes and gum disease

Inflammation from gum disease can raise  blood sugar level. Diabetics with high blood sugar are more likely to have complications from their diabetes.

The connection between diabetes and gum disease makes it important for diabetics to prevent gum disease.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 54 million people in the US have pre-diabetes. Some of those pre-diabetics will become diabetic.

Because of inflammation, gum disease speeds-up the progession of pre-diabetes.

Experts don't know everything about diabetes cause, treatment and prevention, but research is pointing to the connection between diabetes and gum disease making good dental care a high priority for those at risk.

There is still much to be learned, but we do know this...

Inflammation is not good for our health and gum disease causes chronic inflammation.  This knowledge along with the risk of losing teeth is enough to keep me flossing!

Learn more about the symptoms of gum disease

Source: American Academy of Periodontology. If you are interested in learning more about the connection between your gums and your health, visit the American Academy of Periodontology website.

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