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Taking care of your oral health does more than give you a healthy smile. Here’s why.

Looking for a way to improve your health? Be good to your teeth and gums! You may not think that your oral hygiene has much to do with your physical health, but the fact is that healthy gums do far more than give you a winning smile. They also help keep you healthier overall.

What’s the connection between your gums and your heart and other aspects of your health? It all comes down to one thing: inflammation.

If you have gum disease, whether it’s mild or more advanced, there is inflammation in and around your gums. This can result in soreness, redness, swelling and pain in your mouth. But when there is any type of inflammation in your body, your immune system kicks into action by sending infection-fighting cells through your bloodstream to respond to the inflammation. So essentially, your entire body experiences the result of the inflammation that occurs in your mouth.

Inflammation from gum disease has been linked to serious health issues, although an exact cause-and-effect relationship has not been established. There’s no way of knowing whether gum disease causes other health issues or if they happen to both exist due to similar circumstances. The one thing that is clear is that people with gum disease are more likely to experience certain health conditions.

Gum Disease and Heart Disease

Inflammation arising due to gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. How can inflammation in your gums affect your heart, you might ask?

It turns out that your cardiovascular system responds to inflammation and the toxins released by bacteria from your gums by increasing the amount of c-reactive protein (CRP) and fats (cholesterol) in your bloodstream. Excess cholesterol builds up on the walls of the arteries, resulting in narrowed blood vessels or blockages. As a result, not only may you experience high cholesterol, but also high blood pressure. The build-up of plaque in arteries also puts you at risk for serious heart issues, such as heart attack and stroke.

Gum Disease and Diabetes

People with diabetes don’t heal as easily as people without diabetes and may be more susceptible to bacterial infections because their immune systems don’t work as effectively. If blood sugar levels are not well controlled, there can also be higher levels of glucose in the saliva, which promotes the growth of bacteria. This can lead to or worsen gum disease. The inflammation caused by gum disease may make it harder to control blood sugar levels, so it becomes a vicious cycle.

Gum Disease and Other Health Issues

Some health experts believe that the inflammation caused by gum disease may be linked to gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Research has also suggested that people with severe gum disease may also be at an increased risk of developing complications from COVID-19. There may also be a higher incidence of asthma attacks in people with gum disease because the immune system is always on the defense. Pregnant women may also be more likely to experience inflammation from gum disease, and this may be linked with a higher chance of delivering premature or underweight babies. As with heart disease and diabetes, it is unclear if having gum disease causes these issues or if the two conditions happen to exist due to other circumstances.

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Date Last Reviewed: August 18, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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