The benefits of good oral hygiene go beyond fresh breath and a mouth free of cavities. People with gum disease have a greater chance of developing disease. If you’ve got bleeding gums, read on.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on
The doctor is explaining the relationship between gum or periodontal disease to general health.

What is Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the tissue surrounding a tooth.

What Causes It?

Improper brushing and flossing allows for plaque buildup on the teeth. An overgrowth of bad bacteria found within the plaque can lead to inflammation and, eventually, gum disease.

How Does Periodontal Disease Affect Our Overall Health?

These bad bacteria can now enter the bloodstream and travel to various organs in the body, such as the heart. They can also be inhaled into the lungs and cause other diseases. Gum or periodontal disease can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature birth. Periodontal disease may also lead to respiratory infections, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and pneumonia.

Studies have demonstrated an association between the severity of periodontal disease and the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Researchers speculate that this association may be due to an underlying inflammatory response trait, which places an individual at high risk for developing both periodontal disease and atherosclerosis.

There is a relationship between the bacteria found in dental plaque and the arterial plaque, that can trigger a heart attack. 

With this in mind, individuals with risk factors for both periodontal disease and heart disease should take extra care to maintain a clean, healthy mouth and reduce any generalized inflammation in the body. This especially important if there is a family history of heart disease.   

The doctor is talking about the relationships between gum or periodontal health and general health.
The doctor is talking about the relationships between gum or periodontal health and general health.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

In a 2002 article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, Dr. Genco and co-authors stated: 

The findings from cross-sectional and longitudinal epidemiologic human studies are supported by in vitro and animal studies describing plausible mechanisms linking periodontal infection to development of atherosclerotic diseases, to the triggering of clinical coronary events or both.

In other words, several different types of research—lab, animal, human—came to the same conclusion, that periodontal disease is linked to heart disease.  What does this mean for you?  It means you now have another, more important, reason to brush and floss regularly and throughly.