The Mouth-Body Connection

Research has recently proven what dentists have long suspected: that there is a strong connection between periodontal disease and other chronic systemic disease conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue, presence of disease-causing bacteria, and infection below the gum line. Infections and bacteria in the mouth can spread throughout the body and lead to a host of problematic health issues. Therefore, maintaining excellent oral hygiene and reducing the progression of periodontal disease through treatment will have benefits beyond preventing gum disease and bone loss. It can also save you from the chance of developing another serious condition.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious metabolic disease that is characterized by too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Type II diabetes occurs when the body is unable to regulate insulin levels, meaning too much glucose stays in the blood. Type I diabetics cannot produce any insulin at all. Diabetes affects many people and increases with age. It can lead to a variety of health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Research has shown people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-diabetics. Diabetics with insufficient blood sugar control also develop periodontal disease more frequently and severely than those who have good management over their diabetes.

The connection between diabetes and periodontal disease results from a variety of factors. Diabetes sufferers are more susceptible to all types of infections, including periodontal infections, due to changes in blood flow, altered bacterial killing activity of white blood cells and alteration in the body’s overall resistance to infection. However controlling ones blood sugar levels may prevent many of these issues.

The systemic inflammation induced by moderate to severe periodontal disease may increase blood sugar levels in the body further exaggerating the need to control diabetes. So treatment of periodontitis has a positive benefit for Diabetic patients.

Smoking and tobacco use is detrimental to anyone’s oral and overall health, but it is particularly harmful to diabetics. Diabetic smokers 45 and older are in fact 20 times more likely to develop periodontal disease than those who do no smoke.

If you are a diabetic it is very important to control your blood sugars, to brush and loss your teeth effectively, visit the dentist regularly, and to have your periodontitis treated.

Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

Coronary heart disease occurs when fatty proteins and a substance called atheroma plaque build up on the walls of your arteries. This causes the arteries to narrow, constricting blood flow. Oxygen is restricted from traveling to the heart which results in shortness of breath, chest pain, and even heart attack.

The link between periodontal disease and heart disease is so apparent that patients with oral conditions are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those with healthy mouths. Periodontal disease has also been shown to exacerbate existing heart conditions. Additionally, patients with periodontal disease have been known to be more susceptible to fatal strokes. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is suddenly stopped. This may occur, for example, when a blood clot prevents blood from reaching the brain.

One of the causes of the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease is oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. There are many strands of periodontal bacteria. Some strands enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. This attachment leads to clot formation and increased risk to a variety of issues including heart attack.

Inflammation caused by periodontal disease also creates an increase in white blood cells and proteins called “Acute Phase Proteins” such as C-reactive proteins (CRP). CRP is a protein that has long-been associated with heart disease. When levels are increased in the body, it indicates an increase in the body’s natural inflammatory response. Bacteria from periodontal disease may enter the bloodstream, or may induce inflammatory changes that causing the liver to produce extra CRP, which may lead to altered inflammatory responses and possibly blood clots which can predispose to clots blocking arteries.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the Western world for both men and women. Enacting positive oral hygiene practices and obtaining treatment for periodontal problems may help to reduce the risk of developing this unfortunate condition.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Pregnant women with periodontal disease expose their unborn children to a variety of risks and possible complications. Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes in women, which may be associated with increased growth in some of the bacteria in the plaque which are associated with increased gingivitis, or gum inflammation. These oral problems have been linked to preeclampsia, or low birth weight of the baby, as well as premature birth. Some evidence exists that treating periodontal disease may reduce these risks. 

There is evidence that alteration in inflammation found in periodontal diseases may influence the pregnancy in some genetically susceptible patients. Inflammation may influence the onset of labour leading to premature and low birth weights of the child, or the development of preeclampsia. 

If you are pregnant, it is important to practice effective home care for preventing gum disease. can help assess your level of oral health and develop preventive measures and treatment plans to best protect you and your baby.

Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease occurs when fine droplets are inhaled from the mouth and throat into the lungs. These droplets contain germs that can spread and multiply within the lungs to impair breathing. Recent research has shown that oral bacteria can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract and cause infection or worsen existing lung conditions, such as pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory condition characterized by blockage of the airways, and caused mostly by smoking, has also been shown to worsen if the patient also has periodontal disease. 

Periodontal Disease and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition common in older patients, and particularly women, that is characterized by the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. Studies have found that women with periodontal disease were more likely to have periodontal bone loss in the jaws, more likely to develop periodontitis and that osteoporosis patients could significantly reduce tooth loss by controlling periodontal disease. It appears that inflammation derived from periodontal disease may be involved in this process. 

Periodontal Disease and Arthritis

Recent evidence has shown a link between arthritis and periodontitis. Once against this appears to be associated with an increase in the inflammatory response induced by the bacteria in the oral cavity. It has been shown that treatment of periodontal disease can reduce the signs and symptoms associated with arthritis.

Periodontal Disease and Smoking

Smoking has been linked to the worsening of periodontal disease. Patients who smoke have greater levels of periodontal tissue loss than and age sex matched patients with periodontitis. Factors induced by smoking appear to alter the immune response and this in turn seems to result in an increase in tissue destruction in smokers with periodontitis. The periodontal disease treatment outcomes for patients who smoke are not as good as those for patients who do not.

When people with periodontitis stop smoking they frequently will report more gum bleeding and swelling. This appears to be related to the improvement in the inflammatory response. The Periodontists will give you information about smoking and they will also encourage you to QUIT.