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Complications of Untreated Gum Disease

Despite widespread patient education on the advantages of preventing gum disease, almost 50% of U.S. adults over age 30 have an advanced form of this condition. If you’re not taking care of your gums with regular tooth brushing and flossing, you’re risking permanent tooth damage and a wide range of serious complications that can affect your mouth as well as your overall well-being.

Gum disease occurs when bacteria and food debris accumulate on the surface of your teeth to form dental plaque. This sticky film, which adheres to your teeth, can be removed with twice-daily brushing and regular professional dental cleaning

When plaque is allowed to build up on your teeth, it thickens and hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar inflames your gums and can cause them to bleed. 

Many adults don’t realize they have gum disease because the condition is painless when it begins. Twice-yearly dental checkups can help identify early signs of the condition when treatment can prevent permanent damage. 

The dentists at Rifkin Dental in Yorktown Heights and Carmel, New York, provide expert periodontal (gum care) services for the prevention and treatment of gum disease. If you develop the condition, our dental professionals can help restore your gums to health and minimize long-term effects.

Find out more about the complications that can arise from ignoring the signs of gum disease and allowing it to become a serious problem. 

Tooth loss

Without regular dental checkups, gum disease can affect your gums, jawbone, and the tissues that connect your teeth to your gums. Receding gums, gum pockets, and bone deterioration can occur. Your gums eventually become unable to secure your teeth in place and tooth loss results. 

Tooth loss can affect more than the way you eat and speak. When your teeth are in place, they work to stimulate your jawbone, which triggers the release of fortifying nutrients that keep it strong enough to support your teeth. When you lose a tooth, your jawbone loses a source of stimulation at the site of the lost tooth.  

The change can initiate bone loss in your jaw because your body loses the source of stimulation tied to the release of nutrients that support bone regeneration. This change can weaken your jawbone and allow existing healthy teeth to shift out of place. A damaged jawbone can affect your appearance because it changes your facial structure.

Swollen or red gums

Swollen, red, or tender gums can occur during gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease when plaque accumulates along your gum line. 

This can occur as a result of inflammation, your body’s natural response to bacteria. Affected gums typically appear red and may protrude out and hide parts of your teeth. If you have gum disease, swollen, red, or tender gums may form around one tooth or your entire mouth.

Chronic bad breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, occurs often with gum disease. The odor originates from gases released by the bacteria caught on and between your teeth. 

Tiny pieces of food debris can also get caught with the bacteria and release odors as they begin to deteriorate. Foods with naturally strong odors, like onions, garlic, and spices, can intensify the smell. 


If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have gum disease. The combination can be dangerous because bacteria from your infected gums can leak into your bloodstream.

This activates your body’s defense mechanisms, which results in higher blood sugar levels and the potential for developing complications associated with the condition. 

Cardiovascular disease

People with gum disease have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, resulting in more heart attacks and strokes. 

This may occur because the bacteria from gum disease can enter your bloodstream and cause atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in your arteries and hardens. The condition makes you more susceptible to blood clots, which can cause a heart attack or stroke when blood flow is restricted. 


You may have a higher risk of developing some types of cancer if you have gum disease. A long-term health study reported that participants with advanced gum disease had a 24% higher risk of cancer versus those with healthier gums. Study participants with severe periodontal disease had more than double the risk of developing lung cancer compared to those with a milder form of the condition.

Respiratory problems

Gum disease may increase your risk of developing a respiratory infection like bronchitis or pneumonia when the bacteria in your mouth pass from your upper throat into your respiratory tract. Gum disease can also worsen an existing respiratory condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, because it increases inflammation in the airways. 

Find out more about the complications that you risk by allowing gum disease to develop and worsen. Schedule an appointment by calling one of our offices today.

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