How Gum Disease Affects Your Overall Health

How Gum Disease Affects Your Overall Health

Your oral health and your overall health are inextricably linked. Sometimes, your dentist can spot a potential health problem well before your primary care provider might. For example, your dentist may recognize symptoms of sleep apnea or hypertension and recommend you to visit a medical doctor for the diagnosis. 

The reverse is also true. An oral health problem, like gum disease, can raise your risk of other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, or even osteoporosis. At Licata Dental in Chesterfield, Missouri, Dr. Faye Licata and our team want you to enjoy good oral health and good general health, and that’s one reason we work hard to prevent gum disease. 

Gum disease

There are two main types of gum disease — gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, your gums may be swollen, red, and inflamed. With proper care and hygiene, gingivitis can be reversed. 

Periodontitis is the next phase of gum disease and results from untreated gingivitis. Rather than inflammation, periodontitis involves infection. Your gums begin to pull away from your teeth, and bacteria can collect beneath them, making the problem even worse. 

Regardless of the form of gum disease, the cause is the same. Harmful bacteria gets where it shouldn’t be, like just under your gum line, and causes irritation, inflammation, and eventually infection. 

Your mouth and the rest of your body

Unfortunately, when you have infected gums, the infection doesn’t remain confined to your mouth — although it’s bad enough there. Instead, the bacteria can reach other parts of your body and have a negative impact. 

Experts estimate that some 120 other diseases and conditions are somehow linked to gum disease, although the association is often unclear. Researchers don’t always know if gum disease causes another problem or if the other problem makes you more susceptible to gum disease. 

Some conditions, though, are associated often enough that it’s clear there’s a relationship between them. 

Diabetes and gum disease

Researchers think that the relationship between diabetes and gum disease is a two-way street. Diabetics tend to have less capacity for healing, because their immune systems don’t work as well. This makes it more difficult for their body to respond when they have an early type of gum disease like gingivitis. 

Additionally, there’s evidence that periodontitis can cause higher blood glucose levels, and make it more difficult to control blood sugar. Those with diabetes need to be extra vigilant about attending regular dental appointments and maintaining good dental hygiene. 

Heart health and gum disease

Although there are links between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, scientists don’t completely understand how the two conditions affect each other. There’s some evidence that bacteria from your mouth can enter your bloodstream and cause inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries. 

Heart disease and gum disease share several risk factors, as well, so it could simply be that people who develop one tend to develop the other. For example, being overweight and smoking are both big risk factors for gum disease and for cardiovascular disease. 


Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density. Some early studies suggest that weakened jaw bones can lead to tooth loss. 

There may also be links between gum disease and respiratory disease like pneumonia, and some forms of cancers. 

Periodontitis causes oral health issues, but it seems it can also impact your overall health. The best thing to do? Take good care of your oral health. See Dr. Licata twice a year for cleanings and checkups. Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day, and floss once a day. 

Call us for an appointment at 636-532-2101 or book a visit online today! 

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