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Gum Disease: Are You At Risk? (Pt. 2)

  • May 15, 2015

  • Do you have tender or swollen gums?
  • Do your gums bleed easily during brushing and flossing?

If you can answer yes to these two questions, it’s very possible you have the early stage of gum disease, gingivitis. You’re not alone. 50% of adults over 30 (and 70% of adults over 65) have one of the two types of gum disease: gingivitis or periodontitis (the more advanced type). Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the US. In our Columbia, SC practice, we see gum disease every day, and we offer comprehensive treatment to our patients.

As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Gum disease is so widespread not only because it is difficult for people to see the symptoms on their own, but because there are so many risk factors that play a role in determining if you can develop gum disease. In our last post, we discussed some of the more common risk factors for developing gum disease. Today, we’ll talk about how gum disease is related to systemic disease.

What Are Systemic Diseases?

Systemic diseases are diseases that effect multiple organs and tissues simultaneously, or the entire body. The American Academy of Periodontology (the field of research that specializes in gum health) has made strong links between gum disease and systemic diseases. As you’ll see in this post, systemic diseases that are closely tied to periodontal disease (gum disease) includes diabetes, heart diseases, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, and cancer.

If you have a systemic disease, your risk for developing gum disease is much higher; gum disease is actually considered a complication of some of these diseases!

Do You Have Diabetes

Diabetes affects 10% of the US population(and of that 10%, 28% of cases are undiagnosed). The impact of diabetes can be observed throughout the entire body, and that includes your mouth, gums, and teeth. Gum disease is considered a complication of diabetes because it is so common, and what’s worse, gum disease can actually make it harder to control your diabetes symptoms!

If you’re a diabetic, your blood vessels are much thicker than they are in someone without diabetes. Thicker blood vessels mean that they are much slower at getting nutrients to where they need to be, and flushing away waste. All your body’s systems suffer as a result, and your gums and teeth become more vulnerable to the infections that cause gum disease.

Glucose levels for diabetics are much higher, and if you have diabetes, you know how difficult it can be to control your glucose, or “blood sugar”. Did you know that glucose is also present in your saliva? If you’re a diabetic, the amount of sugar in your saliva is much higher. The bacteria in your mouth (the source of the infections that cause gum disease) love to eat sugar, and the more sugar you have in your saliva, the more bacteria you’ll have, which makes your chances of getting gum disease much higher.

Despite all this, just having diabetes doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop gum disease. In fact, if you are a good manager of your diabetes symptoms, your chances of developing gum disease are no greater than someone who doesn’t have diabetes.

Heart Disease

Heart disease’s role in gum disease isn’t precisely known, but the most current research suggests that the chronic inflammation that characterizes heart disease may be related to the inflammation found in gum disease. It goes the other way too: gum disease may also make heart disease worse.

In addition, if you’ve had a stroke, your chances of developing gum disease is much higher than before you had it.

Respiratory Disease

It’s possible that gum disease can either cause or worsen respiratory diseases. Gum disease is chronic inflammation due to an uncontrolled level of bacteria in the mouth. During breathing, that bacteria can be inhaled into the lungs. That’s why people with gum disease have a much higher chance of getting pneumonia (for one example).


Osteoporosis weakens bone density. Gum disease, especially when it reaches the bone, can be worse for those who suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis also makes tooth loss associated with gum disease much more likely.


Cancer and gum disease are related, and the most recent data suggest that inflammation is the connector. Men with gum disease are 30% more likely to develop cancers of the blood. They’re also 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, and 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

See Yourself Somewhere In This Post? Make an Appointment!

If after reading this post you think you stand a good chance of developing gum disease, don’t delay. Click here to reach our online appointment form.

If you prefer speaking with a human, call us today at 803-272-4162!


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