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How Gum Disease Affects the Body

The mouth is the gateway to the body – a concept deeply rooted in dental medicine. At Howard County Smiles in Columbia, MD, we believe that oral health forms an integral part of overall wellness. Understanding this relationship starts with getting to know one widespread condition affecting oral health: gum disease.

How Gum Disease Affects the Body

Digging Deeper into Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a potentially serious infection that can deteriorate gums and destroy the bone that supports teeth if left untreated. It typically begins as gingivitis, caused by poor brushing habits allowing plaque buildup along the gum line, resulting in red, swollen gums prone to bleeding.

If not promptly addressed through professional cleanings and improved home care routines, gingivitis can advance into periodontitis, where harmful bacteria begin damaging the supporting structures around teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss.

Gum Disease: More Than Just a Mouth Problem

Evidence has increasingly shown that gum diseases do not limit their effects within our mouths but extend far beyond. This links with various systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. As a result, your oral health greatly impacts your overall physical well-being.

The connection between gum disease and other health issues is becoming more evident as research continues to uncover the links. Here’s how gum disease can impact different parts of your body:

Heart Disease

One of the most significant links is between gum disease and heart disease. Studies have shown that people with gum disease are at a higher risk of developing heart problems. The bacteria from inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart. This can cause the arteries to harden. Unfortunately, this can increase a person’s risk of heart attacks and strokes.


Gum disease and diabetes have a two-way relationship. People with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, including gum disease. On the other hand, gum disease can make it harder to control blood sugar levels. This can lead to further complications in diabetes management. Therefore, maintaining good oral health is critical for diabetics to help keep their condition under control.

Respiratory Issues

Bacteria from gum disease can also be inhaled into the lungs. This can even cause respiratory infections or make existing lung conditions worse. This is particularly concerning for people with chronic respiratory diseases like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Pregnancy Complications

Pregnant women with gum disease are at a higher risk of developing complications. For example, they are at risk of preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight. The inflammation and bacteria can enter the bloodstream, affecting the developing baby. This makes it crucial for expectant mothers to maintain excellent oral hygiene and regularly visit their dentist.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is also a connection between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Both conditions involve inflammation. In fact, research suggests that the bacteria from periodontal disease can exacerbate the inflammation in the joints, leading to increased pain and damage to those with rheumatoid arthritis.