How does gum disease affect my body?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The plaque that builds up around your teeth can hurt your heart as well as your gums. Watch this animation to see how plaque in your mouth can build up and block the arteries leading to the heart.

Todd A. Welch, DMD
Current models of mucosal surfaces of oral, gut, lung, and skin tissue postulate that local bacterial antigens, derived from biofilms on surfaces, regulate local tolerance, local immune response, and systemic response by way of an "information relay system" through a series of nuclear factor-kappa beta pathways to synthesize and secrete cytokines and chemokines to regulate the inflammatory process at local as well as distant sites. Evidence is also accumulating that the predominant cells of the periodontium, gingival fibroblasts, are capable of producing prostaglandins, interleukins (IL-1beta [β], IL-6, IL-8), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and interferon- gamma (IFN-γ). It is hypothesized that these mediators modulate inflammation locally as well as at a distant site of infection.

One presupposes the direct role of oral bacteria or their products in the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic plaque in myocardial infarctions. An alternative explanation is the possible role of mediators in inflammation initiated by periodontal pathogens in the development of chronic complications. There is general agreement that chronic diseases, such as atherosclerosis, stroke, and diabetes, are multifactorial in origin. But there is growing evidence that these diseases are influenced by gingival inflammation and chronic periodontal infections. In a series of cross-sectional studies, a strong relationship has been found between acutephase C-reactive protein (CRP) in serum and the severity of periodontal diseases. CRP is triggered by infections, trauma, necrosis, and malignancy, and is also linked to heart disease and diabetes. CRP is synthesized in the liver in response to proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-6. TNF-α, IFN-γ, and transforming growth factor also participate in the production.

The current therapeutic strategy to control periodontal infections involves mechanical removal of deposits, both supra- and subgingival.
Carol Jahn
Gum disease hurts your body in many ways. First and foremost; it can lead to pain, bone loss, and ultimately tooth loss. Our teeth are essential to healthy eating; when we lose the ability to chew well, it affects our overall nutrition and our body. Second, our teeth are integral to our smile. Tooth loss or discomfort with the way our mouth looks can lead to a loss of self-esteem and confidence. When we lose teeth, we also lose bone and that effects the structure of our face causing premature aging. 

There is also growing evidence that the gum disease may effect the rest of our bodies too. When you have gum disease, your mouth is inflamed and these inflammatory agents may increase inflammation in other parts of your body. It has been observed that people with heart disease are more likely to have gum disease and vice versa. People with diabetes who have gum disease may have a harder time controlling their blood sugar.
Gum disease hurts your mouth, but it also can affect your entire body. Researchers have found a link between periodontal (gum) disease and chronic health conditions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gum disease produces bacteria in your mouth that can flow into your bloodstream to other parts of your body. If you're already unhealthy, the bacteria can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you have diabetes, your condition can worsen due to gum disease. Maintain proper oral health to help prevent gum disease and damage to your body.
Research between systemic diseases and periodontal diseases is ongoing. While a link is not conclusive, some studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions such as diabetes or stroke.

It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.

Continue Learning about Healthy Teeth & Mouth

Can bad teeth cause health problems?
Teeth that are in poor condition may produce an abundance of bacteria that could lead to oral infect...
More Answers
How often must I floss my teeth?
Rita MedwidRita Medwid
For good oral health, it is best to floss your teeth once within a 24 hour period. This is approxima...
More Answers
What are good oral healthcare products I can give as gifts?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
Consider giving a child a bucket filled with a few child-sized toothbrushes and tubes of childre...
More Answers
How Can a Healthy Smile Affect My Self Confidence?
How Can a Healthy Smile Affect My Self Confidence?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.