Gum Disease: It Doesn’t Just Affect Your Mouth

Gum Disease: It Doesn’t Just Affect Your Mouth

Gum/Periodontal disease is a concern when it comes to your mouth but do you know it can have an impact on other parts of your body as well? Below is some information on parts of the body that can be affected.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Porphyromanas gingivalis is one of the main bacteria which cause periodontal (gum) disease. Studies have recently found that this bacteria is present and causing inflammation in the regions of the brain which are affected by Alzheimers disease (3).

Arthritis (Rheumatoid)
Studies have found a strong link between people with periodontal (gum) disease and those with rheumatoid arthritis, some finding that the two trigger each other’s severity (8). It is thought that the oral microenvironment may play a role in the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. This is because of the systemic inflammation gum disease can cause and our body’s immune response to this inflammation.

Oral bacteria have been found to be involved in the body’s process of the breakdown of our immune response, increasing the risk of autoimmune diseases ie. rheumatoid arthritis (7).

The presence of gum inflammation can make it harder for a diabetic to control their blood sugar levels. Therefore, improving your gum health can directly aid in improving blood glucose stability (2).

High blood glucose levels can make your gum disease worse as the mouth bacteria feed off the high sugar/glucose in your blood.

Uncontrolled diabetes/blood glucose levels can cause damage to your blood vessels which supply your gums, this can in turn reduce the effectiveness of your immune system to fight the bacteria which cause gum disease – infection rates are often higher and you often heal slower (5).

There are many other oral effects of uncontrolled diabetes.

Some respiratory infections and diseases are caused when bacteria from the upper throat and mouth are inhaled in the respiratory tract. Due to this, respiratory issues such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia are being linked to people with periodontal (gum) disease (9).

Gut/General Health
The mouth is the gateway to the rest of our body – the healthier your mouth and oral bacteria, the healthier your gut, immune system, and entire body. Did you know, 80% of our immune cells live in our gut!?! Bacteria have a complex role in the mouth and in the whole body – when the microbiome (bacteria’s environment) is out of balance the effects are felt all over the body. Studies are now finding out how the whole body is affected from the presence of periodontal (gum) disease and its associated bacteria (1). It is good to take the necessary steps to eliminate all inflammation in our body.

Cardiovascular Disease
Studies have found the pathogens/bacteria from the mouth travel in the blood and can infiltrate into the plaque which builds up and causes blockages in the arteries, this increases the risk of heart disease (6).

Bacteria in the mouth which cause gum disease can be disrupted and travel in the blood stream – this can temporarily cause an increase in the inflammatory markers in the blood (6). For the average person this is no issue BUT if you are someone that is at risk this process can create systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation caused by oral bacteria increases the risk of other inflammatory diseases, including cardiovascular disease (2). Some people with heart conditions will require antibiotics before their hygiene treatment to prevent inflammation/disease of the heart lining (infective endocarditis) due to the bacteria travelling in the blood from the mouth (10).

Pre-term Births
Women with gum disease are 7-8 times more likely to give birth prematurely to low weight babies. Researchers have found that gum disease causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals which are linked to pre-term births (2). Periodontal bacteria can often be found in the placenta, and the levels of these bacteria are often related to the severity of the periodontal disease in the mother (4).

To speak to someone in our Wellington based team, feel free to contact us


The Dental Diet, Dr Steven Lin (2018), pages 81-102

Oral Science Club,

New Scientist – We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it. Debora MacKenzie.

Role of Maternal Periodontitis in Preterm Birth. Hongyu Ren, Minquan Du. 13 Feb 2017.

Diabetes New Zealand.

Increasing Evidence for an Association Between Periodontitis and Cardiovascular Disease. Ralph Steward, Malcolm West. 13 January 2016.

Periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis: the evidence accumulates for complex pathobiologic interactions. Clifton O. Bingham, Malini Moni. May 2013.

Bi-Directional Links Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Periodontal Disease. Linda Peckel. 27 April 2017.

Maintaining periodontal health may contribute to a healthy respiratory system. Journal of Periodontology. 18 January 2011.

Heart Foundation. Infective Carditis.


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