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Gum Disease and Its Connection to Other Health Conditions

By HERWriter
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One of the most commonly asked questions is about the possible link between gum disease or periodontal disease and other medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Preliminary research indicates that, yes, in fact there is a connection. Further research needs to be done to determine precisely why, but the early results give us reason to take care of our mouths.

This isn’t to say that periodontal disease “causes” these conditions, but it can affect the severity of the symptoms associated with these conditions.


Gum disease if left untreated can worsen until hard and soft tissue (bone and gums) start to deteriorate. When this happens without preventative or interceptive treatment, tooth loss can result. For those who suffer from or have a family history of osteoporosis, gum disease only makes a complicated situation worse because treatment will not only have to be directed at the systemic deterioration of osteoporosis, but also of periodontal disease.

Many patients may not even be aware they have gum disease, which is why it is so important to maintain good oral hygiene, including regular dental check-ups whether or not they actually feel like something’s wrong.

Since women in their menopausal years are most prone to osteoporosis, it is important for that segment of the population to remain vigilant about their oral health.

Heart Disease & Stroke

People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries - the blood vessels that carry oxygen to the heart. This thickening happens because of plaque build up usually comprised of fatty proteins. While the exact reason for the correlation between periodontal disease and heart disease is yet to be determined, scientists theorize that oral bacteria enters the blood stream and is carried along by the fatty proteins. The body’s natural reaction to bacteria is to fight the infection with white blood cells further decreasing the space inside the artery.

Again, more research is being done to find more definitive answers.


No, pregnancy is not a disease. But, it is a medical condition that can be affected by the presence of periodontal bacteria. Studies have shown that pregnant women who have periodontal disease are seven times more likely to give birth prematurely to underweight babies.

Scientists surmise that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor. Expectant mothers should make regular visits to their dentist and follow-up with a periodontist (gum disease specialist) if it is deemed necessary by the family dentist.


Diabetics are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which can in turn increase blood sugar and the potential for other diabetic complications. Periodontal disease is often referred to as the sixth complication of diabetes.

A 1997 study published in the Journal of Periodontology followed Pima Indians who had both diabetes and periodontal disease. The study found that when the periodontal infections were treated, the Indians’ diabetes became much easier to manage.

Respiratory Diseases

For those with asthma, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, COPD and other breathing issues, it is very important that periodontal disease is addressed and monitored. Scientists believe that the bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled and, once in the lungs, can encourage the onset or increase the severity of symptoms.

Pancreatic Cancer

A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that men with periodontal disease had a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer – a particularly difficult type of cancer to treat. The researchers postulate two reasons for that finding:
1) Inflammation from periodontal bacteria increases the protein cells that may contribute to the development of cancer cells;
2) Those with periodontal disease have higher levels of oral bacteria and nitrosamines, which are carcinogens, in their mouth.

In all the cases of potential linkages between gum disease and other health conditions, more research is required. In the meantime, we can’t afford to sit back and ignore the symptoms. As with most health conditions, recovery is best possible if the condition is caught early and treatment started as soon as possible.

Discuss any symptoms – redness or tenderness of gums, bleeding of gums after flossing or chewing hard foods, roots starting to appear where there used to be gum tissue – with your dentist so they can initiate treatment right away. Many perio treatment plans include simple non-invasive procedures such as flossing more regularly and using antibacterial rinses.

But, as always, the best treatment is prevention. Maintaining good oral cleansing habits in the first place means much less of a chance for something to require more extensive (and expensive) treatment later.

Sources: www.perio.org; www.sciencedaily.com

Add a Comment7 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I had no idea that gum disease was so connected with other diseases. That's scary since my dad was just diagnosed with gum disease. We've all been doing a little research to learn more about it. I'll have to share this with him.

August 13, 2014 - 1:24pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

It is surprising that it affects so many other systems. Surgery isn't always required, though, depending on the extent of it. Dentist's usually strive for the least invasive treatment plan possible, although - again - depending on the severity of the case they may recommend a rather aggressive treatment plan to slow the progress of the disease and allow the gums and bone a chance to heal.

It's really over a long period of time that gum disease goes untreated that the body's other systems can be affected that's why regular oral hygiene, including dental check-ups are really important to catch it early before it does more underlying damage.

August 17, 2014 - 7:21pm
EmpowHER Guest

Wow never thought it is closely related.

December 17, 2011 - 2:54pm
EmpowHER Guest

Well, I am not surprised at all that there is a link between gum disesase and heart/kidney problems. When I was little (I am 57 now) the old people used to tell us to look after your teeth because "the inflamation will spread to heart and kidneys"). I am trying to tell that to my dentists but somehow...they don't get it. Now when I am in pain 24/7 (jaw and gums) my dentist is saying she has never seen anything like that. My teeth are clean, I wash them, I floss then, I spend a fortune on some rinsing products but it is not helping. Yes, I have osteoporosis and am on Actonel Combi, had kidney stones and operation of parathyroid gland, etc. I AM convinced that everything is related and there is some inflamation in my mouth which is going on and on. I even started suffereing from BBPV (vertigo) but nobody seems to want to look at me as a whole. No doctor wants to be bothered except just examine one thing.
I have a partial denture but am not able to wear it due to the pain. When my dentist takes x ray everything seems fine, like I am imagining things. Is anyone in this world willing to help?
Thanks for your attention and please help.

December 16, 2011 - 7:05pm

This is very important information on periodontal disease. One of my friends always has to take antibiotics when he goes to the dentist because he has a heart murmur. I used to think that was awfully weird, but I'm learning that infection and inflammation issues can affect the entire body. For the association between periodontal disease and chronic kidney disease, please see my article at

August 24, 2009 - 2:03pm

You're welcome. Flossing usually gets the short end of the stick (no pun intended) when it comes to oral hygiene, but it is really quite crucial to stimulating gums and keeping them healthy. I have had a history of gum related issues including gingivitis (a mild form of periodontal disease) so I have flossed irregularly, but started again when I noticed some gum resorption which, two months later, is now much better.

I will address proper dental hygiene in another article in more detail including the importance of flossing.

August 12, 2009 - 8:38am


Thank you so much for such an informative, thorough SHARE. It's funny, our vet always emphasized that our dogs' teeth need to be kept clean because of the ongoing damage that periodontal bacteria can do to the dogs' organs, but I never thought about the same being true for people. But it makes perfect sense. Another reason to be dedicated to (ugh) flossing, too. I shall rededicate my efforts. Thank you again.

August 12, 2009 - 8:27am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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