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Gum Disease and Other Ailments: What Is the Common Connection?

Apr 14, 2021
Researchers have explored the link between gum disease and health complications. Gum disease, the inflammation of the gums, starts when dental plaque builds around teeth.

Researchers have explored the link between gum disease and health complications. Gum disease, the inflammation of the gums, starts when dental plaque builds around teeth. There are over 1000 bacteria in dental plaque, which, if left to breed, can cause cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, in turn, can cause health complications, such as:

Blood Vessel Disease

A different type of plaque, made of cholesterol, calcium, fat, and other blood substances, can build up inside arteries, known as atherosclerosis. This fatty plaque can cause coronary artery disease, narrowing or limiting blood flow to the heart. 

Heart Attacks 

People with gum disease are 2 to 3 times more likely to have a heart attack and other serious cardiovascular diseases. Not everyone with gum disease has heart problems, and many people with heart disease have healthy gums.

Periodontal disease, the inflammation in the gums and bacteria, can cause narrowing of essential arteries, increasing heart disease risk. To date, there is no evidence that treating gum disease will prevent heart disease and its complications, but the link between the two conditions is compelling enough. 

Practicing good oral hygiene such as brushing twice and flossing once a day can reverse an early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, causing receding gums and eventually make the tooth loosen and fall out.


The research abstracts given at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference prove that periodontal disease heightens the threat of strokes. This is a result of the hardening of the brain’s large arteries and severe asymptomatic artery blockages.

The research found that:

  • The risk of having a stroke relating to blood vessels in the back of the brain that controls coordination, vision, and other vital bodily functions was tripled in people with gum disease as compared to those without it.
  • The threat of having moderately acute narrowed brain arteries caused due to plaque buildup was doubled in people with gingivitis or gum inflammation than those without gum disease.
  • The risk of having severely blocked brain arteries was 2.4 times more in people with gingivitis as compared to those without it.

Research states that people with gum disease had a higher risk of stroke due to intracranial atherosclerosis than those without gum disease. The research concluded that gum disease treatment could reduce your risk of developing stroke by improving control over its risk factors such as diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure. 

Alzheimer‘s Disease

Research has found that people aged over 70 with chronic gum disease were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those without periodontitis. The study concluded that chronic periodontitis might play a crucial role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it is essential to prevent the progression of periodontal disease to maintain your physical health. Lately, studies have also connected periodontal disease to a reduction in cognitive ability.

Poor oral hygiene is the major risk factor for periodontal disease. Schedule an appointment with our dentist in West Des Moines to learn more about what you can do to practice good oral hygiene. Our periodontist can help you identify early signs of gum disease and treat them accordingly.