Surprising Diseases that Are Linked to Gum Disease

Your teeth may give you clues to the health of the rest of your body.

Article teeth health clues

A healthy smile not only looks good—it may be an indicator that the rest of your body is also in tip-top condition.

Studies suggest that gum disease (known as periodontal disease) may be linked to other serious health issues.1 “Research has shown a significant association between dental infections and many systemic conditions,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. “Having tooth and gum disease is associated with an increased risk of several conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and perhaps even Alzheimer's.”

Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums that starts when plaque builds up along and under the gum line. If left untreated, it can damage your bones, gums, and other tissues that support your teeth. In extreme cases, your teeth may have to be extracted.2

And while researchers are still investigating what’s behind the link between periodontal disease and other diseases, they suspect that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease affects the blood vessels in your heart, causing decreased blood flow and damage. This inflammation also has deleterious effects on other areas of the body.2

Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits can save more than just your smile. Read on for the surprising link between periodontal disease and other serious health issues.

Heart Disease

Gum disease might up your risk of heart disease in different ways. During dental work, bacteria may enter your bloodstream and harm your heart valves, says Teitelbaum. More generally, a dental infection may increase disease-causing inflammation all over your body. If you have a family history of heart disease or have valve problems, let your dentist know. Some conditions may require premedication with antibiotic prior to dental work.2


The average American consumes a whopping 150 pounds of sugar per year—mostly through processed foods. “The massive intake of sugar increases both the risk of diabetes and dental infections,” says Teitelbaum. Ward off gum disease by avoiding excess sugar—especially sodas and fruit juices—and by enjoying sugar-free gums and candies with xylitol, which fights gum infections, says Teitelbaum.2


Periodontal disease contributes to increased inflammation in the body, which the blood vessels in your brain.2

New research has revealed that practitioners doing an allergy desensitization technique called NAET have found that treating dental plaque can result in a marked improvement in a subset of dementia patients, says Teitelbaum.2


1 Health Promotion in Motion, 01/2008:

2 Interview: Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. 7/29/2014