You may be surprised to learn that gum infections can lead to serious health consequences, including heart disease, diabetes, and more.
By Lynn Yoffee
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH
You know you need to take care of your oral health for your teeth’s sake — but did you know it’s also for your heart, your brain — and your whole body?
Research shows that if you have an infection in your mouth, it can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even pregnancy complications. For years, healthcare professionals suspected there was a link between oral infections and some medical conditions, but they thought this was because bacteria from the mouth made its way to other parts of the body.
But now studies are showing that the inflammation found in periodontal, or gum, disease may play a more specific role in causing or increasing the risk for certain conditions.
Oral Health and Overall Health
Poor oral health can cause these serious health problems:
- Heart disease. Researchers have found that long-term periodontitis, an infection of the gums, can lead to coronary heart disease or atherogenesis, a condition in which plaque forms in your arteries. In fact, people with gum disease are nearly twice at risk for heart disease.
- Stroke. If you are missing some or all of your teeth, or have lost significant amounts of bone and tissue around your teeth, you may be at increased risk of stroke. There is evidence that severe periodontitis is also a risk for developing atherosclerotic plaques, which can cause strokes and heart attacks.
- Diabetes. Researchers have discovered that periodontal disease somehow affects the body’s metabolism and can contribute to the development of pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal. On the flip side, people who have type 2 diabetes and get treatment for periodontitis may experience reduced levels of oxidative stress, a condition in which antioxidant levels (substances that protect your body’s cells) are lower than normal.