How Unhealthy Gums Affect Your Overall Health

You increase the likelihood of developing health problems if you ignore recommendations for keeping your mouth clean. Poor oral hygiene results in gum disease — an infection of the soft tissue, tooth ligaments, and bone that support your teeth. 

Increasingly, there’s more evidence indicating that people with gum disease are more likely to have several types of health conditions. While the exact cause and effect isn’t always apparent, there’s evidence that the advantages of good oral hygiene include more than a shiny smile. 

Gum disease begins when bacteria and food debris from dental plaque, a sticky substance that adheres to your teeth. Twice-annual dental visits can identify plaque early, when it can be removed without causing gum disease. 

The dentists at Rifkin Dental in Yorktown Heights and Carmel, New York, provide expert periodontics, or gum care, for the prevention and treatment of gum disease. Our dental professionals have the expertise necessary to restore and maintain the health of your gums, which may also help your overall well-being.

Read on to find out about the health problems associated with gum disease to understand the importance of keeping your gums clean and healthy.

Cardiovascular disease

Research indicates that people with gum disease have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and experience more heart attacks and strokes than people with healthy gums. Two potential theories attempt to explain this relationship.


The bacteria that cause gum disease may enter the bloodstream and cause your arteries to build up plaque and harden, causing atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The plaque can contribute to the formation of blood clots, which can block blood flow or break off and interfere with blood flow in another part of the body. When blood flow is blocked to the heart, it results in a heart attack. If it’s blocked to a blood vessel that feeds the brain, a stroke occurs. 


Another theory proposes that inflammation, the body’s immune response to the infection, triggers cardiovascular problems in people with gum disease. As the bacteria from gum disease spread through your blood, it causes inflammation throughout your body. This can result in damage to the tissues and organs in your cardiovascular system as your immune system works to destroy the bacteria there. 

Alzheimer’s disease

Research investigating the relationship between oral health and dementia indicates that a specific type of bacteria in periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, was also present in the brains of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 


The study indicated that the bacteria, called Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis), may also encourage the production of beta-amyloid proteins, a toxic protein characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. The same study conducted tests on mice to demonstrate how the bacteria easily spread to the brain and resulted in characteristics that define the disease. 

Respiratory disease

The bacteria that cause respiratory diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis may originate from your mouth. Gum disease increases the quantity of this bacteria, making it more likely that the infection will spread past your mouth and to your lungs. The condition can also worsen existing respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD because it increases inflammation in the airways, a factor that leads to more frequent respiratory symptoms and lung damage.


Research in a long-term health study supported previous theories proposing that people with advanced gum disease had an increased risk of cancer. The study reported a 24% increase in the risk of cancer among men and women with severe gum disease. The highest risks occurred in cases of lung cancer and colorectal cancer. 

Find out more about ways to keep your gums healthy with regular dental cleanings that can reduce your risk for gum disease and other conditions. Call or request your appointment online today. 

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