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Gum Disease is a Bigger Problem Than Bleeding Gums

Imagine your house has a leaky roof. The water damage doesn’t just affect the roof and ceiling, it also ruins your floors, your furniture, and the overall structure of your house if left untreated for a long time. If you wanted to undo the damage, you’d have to start with the cause: the leaky roof.

Your body works the same way. If your oral health isn’t where it should be, you are jeopardizing your overall health.

Can infections from my mouth travel through my body?

More than 100 years ago, dentists believed an infection from a tooth could travel to the weakest part of the body, and they were right. If your teeth are infected, nowhere is safe from the side effects. There are strong clinical connections between a healthy mouth and your overall health. Diabetics, for example, usually have to reduce their insulin requirements once infected teeth are removed.

How does the infection spread?

You know that plaque (aka biofilm) is bad for your teeth. But did you know that it’s damaging to more than just your mouth?

Bad bacteria start forming on the rough surfaces of the roots of your teeth. They begin to colonize and gather so that they can eat and eliminate waste products. To get rid of the bug waste, they start a wave action (picture tiny bacteria doing the wave like at sporting events). This action creates circulation in the biofilm. The scary part of all of this is that the bacteria are very smart and can communicate with one another.

Once the biofilm, the bacteria, and the waste team up, it leads to a huge assault on your gum tissue. Your body will bring its A-game in the form of your immune system to fight back. During the fight, your tissue will get destroyed, leaving it open to invasion into the bloodstream. This has negative effects on numerous bodily systems.

Cardiovascular system

A clogged artery leads to serious consequences for your brain and heart. Keeping the “plumbing” clear and clean allows healthy, oxygenated blood to flow freely.

With that being said, your arteries don’t get clogged overnight. The initial process starts with a complicated inflammatory event that researchers have been trying to figure out and agree on for many decades. The one thing that they can agree on is bacteria from the mouth is found in the clogged plaque of a heart attack victim. It’s safe to say that having an infection-free mouth is the best thing you can do for your cardiovascular system.

Respiratory system

Harmful bacteria from an infected mouth have direct access to your lungs from doing something as simple as breathing. Your lungs get hit twice when the same pathogenic bacteria assault them from the blood system, especially in the case of geriatric patients or immuno-compromised patients.

Musculoskeletal system

While there is no evidence that suggests gum disease will cause rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a striking similarity exists between the bacteria of an infected mouth and RA. There is also a positive correlation between bone loss in your mouth and in the rest of your body.

Reproductive system

For pregnant women, taking care of your teeth and gums is extremely important. Bacteria in the blood mean bacteria in the placenta.

Since bacteria create circulation problems, it can also be associated with erectile dysfunction.

Endocrine system

Periodontal disease and diabetes each make the other worse. If you are diabetic, it is imperative that you have the cleanest and healthiest mouth possible. The best way to do this is with regular visits to your dentist and hygienist.


An unhealthy mouth can lead to head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in your mouth, followed by your oropharynx (the middle part of your throat behind your mouth) and larynx (your voice box). Other risks associated with infected teeth/gums include developing lung, kidney, pancreas, and hematological malignancies.

While it’s not clear what the link between gum disease and malignancies are, researchers believe that constant exposure to infection plays a major role.

How can I make sure that my gum disease doesn’t travel to the rest of my body?

Your dentist and hygienist are the only qualified professionals who can help you control your gum disease for a lifetime. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you likely have gum disease. The best course of action is to get in contact with your dentist right away.

Dr. Andrea Stevens and her team are highly trained professionals who are committed to helping you manage your gum disease.

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