4 Your Health: How Gum Health Affects Overall Health

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Last week we reviewed strategies for keeping our New Years Resolutions. In a national poll of over 1,000 adults last month, 26% said they wanted to improve their health in 2022.

Usually that means diet and exercise for good heart health, but we also need to focus on our gums if we are to improve our overall health.

The culprits of gum health


• Bacteria grow on the surface of the tooth root. It is one of the most common infections in humans. Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease.

• Bacteria affect cells in the arterial walls (endothelium) and cells involved in clotting (platelets).

• Bacteria in the mouth can travel to the lungs and cause infections, such as pneumonia. This is more common in people with periodontal disease. When this happens, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to your lungs, which are inflamed by pneumonia, increasing the stress on the heart.

Chronic inflammation:

• Studies show that chronic systemic inflammation is associated with chronic disease.

• Acute myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) is a potential condition for people with periodontal bacteria. Myocarditis can lead to rapid heart failure or cardiac arrest.

Gum disease related to other conditions

In addition to inflammation of the muscle tissue of the heart, the arteries are vulnerable to inflammation, which can lead to many conditions, such as:

• Heart disease (coronary artery disease): Inflammation caused by bacteria in the gums can eventually cause major arteries to narrow. This is because the inflammation “roughens” the inner lining of the artery walls, making the plaque more likely to stick and build up along the wall.

• Heart attack and stroke: Inflammation can cause plaque to crack, rupture, and dislodge inside blood vessels, which could lead to a blockage in an artery.

In a 2014 study, researchers looked at people who suffered from both gum disease and other illnesses and conditions, including:

• Type 2 diabetes: Diabetic patients suffer from increased inflammation and are at greater risk for infections in general. Research indicates that people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing gum disease, but the risk decreases if diabetes is managed.

• Rheumatoid arthritis: This type of arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that attacks the lining of your joints and can damage other systems in the body, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

• Cerebrovascular disease: This disease which affects the blood vessels and blood circulation in the brain. Cerebrovascular disease is a major contributor to dementia later in life.

• Spontaneous premature birth: Pregnant women are at increased risk of gum disease due to hormonal changes and increased blood flow.

The cost of gum disease

• In a review of several studies, researchers found that gum disease increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by about 20%.

• Researchers found that cardiovascular care costs were 10-40% lower in those who received adequate oral care for their gum disease compared to those who did not.

Symptoms of gum disease

Regular visits to your dentist can help in the early diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. Symptoms include:

• Persistent bad breath

• Swollen, red or tender gums that bleed easily

• Very sensitive teeth

• Pain when chewing

• Loose teeth or bite changes

• Receding gums or sunken teeth


Treatment can be as simple as cleaning the teeth above and below the gum line, called “scaling and root planing”. In more advanced cases, surgery is necessary.

Takeaway meals: If your goal is to improve your health this year, make sure good oral care is included as well as healthy eating, exercise, and stress management.

It is also imperative that dental and medical professionals emphasize oral health care as a comprehensive disease prevention strategy.

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