What Health Problems Have Been Linked to Gum Disease?

What Health Problems Have Been Linked to Gum Disease?

It’s becoming more apparent that gum disease, also called periodontal disease, affects more than just the oral cavity. Gum disease has been linked to numerous systemic diseases in scientific research.

Your gums are an essential part of your smile. They help protect your teeth and the ligaments that anchor them in place. Keeping your gums healthy is crucial to a healthy smile.

When bacteria, food debris, and plaque accumulate on the gumline, the gums can become infected. This typically happens through improper oral care or lifestyle factors such as smoking, although some people can be genetically predisposed to gum disease.

The earlier you catch gum disease, the easier it is to treat. In addition, it might just help prevent the following the health problems as well as complications resulting from them!

Heart Disease

Research has shown that gum disease is linked to heart disease, although a causal effect hasn’t been proven. Having gum disease appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and researchers believe inflammation may be the linking factor.

Periodontal disease may actually worsen existing heart conditions. Gum disease and heart disease also share certain risk factors.

Studies have also shown that oral bacteria such as those found in gum disease can travel through the body and trigger an inflammatory response which may lead to the formation of arterial plaque.

Oral bacteria that influence gum disease have also been found in the arterial plaque of people with atherosclerosis. These deposits narrow arteries or clog them entirely, leading to a heart attack.


People who live with diabetes may be more likely to have gum disease. This is because people who have diabetes are generally more prone to getting infections. Gum disease is frequently a complication of diabetes.

Gum disease can increase blood sugar and cause additional complications from diabetes. People who have uncontrolled diabetes are at more risk for problems, as gum disease may make it more difficult to control blood sugar.

Fortunately, treating gum disease can both help lower blood sugar and prevent other complications from arising in regards to diabetes, such as heart disease. The more advanced gum disease is, the more likely additional health issues can occur.


Gum disease may also be a risk factor for stroke. Researchers have found a significant relation between stroke and full-blown periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss, and people with no teeth have the highest risk of stroke and cardiovascular death.

Research is clear that the presence of gum disease and tooth loss are both associated with the occurrence of strokes, making it imperative that you treat gum disease.

Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia have been linked to adverse bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria, which is present in patients with gum disease, can be aspirated into the lungs or may also be carried by the blood into the lungs.

Many patients with respiratory diseases have been shown to have poor gum health. The presence of oral bacteria may increase a patient’s risk of developing a respiratory disease.

Studies show an association between respiratory infection and oral disease, especially in cases of pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The higher the concentration of adverse oral bacteria in the mouth, the greater chance that these bacteria will affect other parts of the body, including the lungs.

Premature Birth

Research has shown that mothers who have gum disease may be more at risk to give birth prematurely or to children who have a low birth weight.

This is because bacteria from gum disease can get into the bloodstream and affect the fetus. Women are also more at risk to develop gum disease during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes in the body.

Some research shows that while treatment during pregnancy can help prevent premature birth and low birth weight, a mother’s best chance is to not have periodontal disease in the first place.

If a mother already has gum disease, pregnancy can make it worse. Getting gum disease treated can help increase the chances of carrying a baby to term and having a healthy baby!


Recent research is linking periodontal disease to breast cancer, oral cancer, esophageal cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, and gallbladder cancer.  Lung cancer and esophageal cancer are more common than other cancers in patients with gum disease.

An increased risk of cancer has been observed in patients who have severe periodontal disease, and risk factors for cancer were higher for patients who had periodontal disease and smoked.

Inflammation may be the link here, as chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk for cancer. Since periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the gums, this may result in chronic inflammation in the body, which not only taxes the immune system, but can make a patient more susceptible to developing cancer.

Getting screened for cancers such as oral cancer can help you take control of your health and evaluate your risk. Oral cancer screenings are simple, painless, and can be done at your Asheville dental office.

Risk Factors and Symptoms of Gum Disease

Knowing the symptoms of gum disease as well as the risk factors can help you know where you stand when it comes to periodontal disease.

Smoking is one of the top risk factors for gum disease and should be avoided. Age, genetics, stress, and obesity are all risk factors you should be aware of.

Symptoms of gum disease include swollen, red, bleeding, and tender gums. You may also have a constant bad taste in your mouth or chronic bad breath.

Fortunately, gum disease can be treated. Treatment for gum disease will depend on the severity of your gum disease. Typically, treatment involves a deep cleaning (also called a root planing and scaling) to remove the debris and infection from around your teeth deep under your gums.

Waiting to seek treatment for gum disease is never a good idea. The sooner you get your periodontal disease taken care of, the easier it will be to treat.

Do You Have Gum Disease?

If you suspect you might have gum disease, it’s time to make an appointment with your dentist in Asheville. Dr. Saunders can help get your gum disease under control to curb your risk of the above systematic diseases and have a healthy smile again!