Gum disease attacks the soft tissue and bone that anchor your teeth, and is the leading cause of tooth loss. It has also been linked with serious medical conditions in other areas of the body.

Research suggests that gum disease – also known as periodontitis or periodontal disease – may put you in greater danger of all kinds of other health problems, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory issues and dementia.

Gum disease may even increase the risk of erectile dysfunction, while pregnant women with periodontitis may be more likely to give birth prematurely.

Many health experts say the connection between oral health and overall body health is backed by “robust scientific evidence”.

The Potential Link Between Gum Disease and Other Medical Conditions

According to a growing body of evidence, gum disease may play a role in a range of seemingly unconnected medical conditions.

Health experts at Harvard Medical School say people with gum disease are two to three times more likely to have a stroke, heart attack or other significant cardiovascular problem.

A 2018 US study also linked gum disease with increased risk of a stroke, after researchers discovered that regular dental care pointed to lower stroke risk.

Other studies have shown:

  • A substantial relationship between lung problems and chronic gum disease.
  • A connection between gum disease and cognitive impairment, especially in older men.
  • A strong link between gum disease and overall cancer risk, particularly pancreatic cancer.
  • Gum disease may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
  • A link between periodontal disease and giving birth prematurely.

Dangers of Infection and Inflammation

Gum disease is a result of infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It’s mainly caused by bacteria from an accumulation of plaque.

In some cases, the body over-reacts to these microbes, which leads to excessive inflammation. In others, the inflammation fails to clear up.

In both instances, the inflammation can also affect your bloodstream, eventually damaging blood vessels in vital areas such as the brain and heart.

How Can I Avoid Gum Disease?

The bad news is that gum disease is widespread among adults in Canada. According to the Canadian Dental Association, 70 per cent will get periodontal disease at some point. The good news is that gum disease can be prevented. A good routine of oral hygiene will help to

  • Protect your gums
  • Improve your overall health
  • Help to lower your risk of other serious medical conditions.

Dentists and dental hygienists recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Flossing between your teeth daily.

It’s also important to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings. If plaque hardens into tartar (calculus) it can only be removed by a dental professional.

With a strong focus on preventive dentistry and can help to safeguard your gums and teeth with dental exams and cleanings, and can also provide dental sealants and fluoride treatments to boost your oral health.