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Cause of Gum Disease

Image of a lady who is having discomfort because she has gum disease.

Can Gum Disease affect General Health?


You might be wondering what affect gum disease can have on you, if any. If you have gum disease, does it just affect your gums and nothing else, or can it affect your body as a whole? The answer is, without a doubt, that it can affect your overall health an well-being. Our immune system naturally takes over. It will take care of getting rid of anything it deems “foreign.”

At Lincoln Family Dentistry, we believe that education can help you better understand your dental concerns. In addition, it can also help you understand the importance of maintaining excellent oral health. Your oral health is our priority and our education begins here. In our article we’ll cover:

-What type of bacteria causes gum disease? We’ll explain more about that “bad” bacteria.

-Does periodontal disease cause heart disease? There is a very strong connection! We have the details.

-Can osteoporosis affect your teeth The connection explained!


Whether you know it or not, there are more bacteria in your mouth then the number of people on this planet. Some of these bacteria are good, others are just downright awful. In our mouths it is critical to maintain the balance between the good and the bad. Aside from good overall health, maintaining oral balance can be done by a few different methods. First, by regular cleanings with your toothbrush and dental aids, second by routine examinations with your dentist. Finally, by cleanings with a dental hygienist. All of these methods will help with prevention of gum disease.

If not cleaned regularly and properly; bad bacteria residing on your teeth and gums can lead to cavities and gum disease. An overgrowth of these bacteria can also cause areas to become inflamed and infected. Infection or inflammation in the oral cavity causes the body’s immune system to kick-in, just like it would for an infection anywhere else in the body. The only problem is, if you do not remove the source of inflammation, it can lead to chronic inflammation within our body.

If you allow bacteria to sit below the gum line for an extended period, inflammation will continue to increase. Inflammation from bad bacteria, causes your body to produce chemicals to eat away your jaw’s bone structure. This bone structure is responsible for keeping your teeth in place. If left for a longer amount of time, a person will only continue to lose bone. This will cause a person’s teeth to become mobile and very uncomfortable. Periodontitis refers to mobility of the teeth. Inflammation then can cause problems to the rest of your body.

Research has shown connections between periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease and diabetes. Studies have proven diabetic control is much more difficult to achieve if a person has unstable periodontal disease. If our body is fighting inflammation in the mouth, it can diminish the ability of our body to control blood sugar. In a diabetic lack of insulin is also a serious problem, because insulin functions by converting sugar consumed into energy. Research has also shown that having high blood sugar gives ideal conditions for infections to thrive. This includes gum infections. The good news is that by controlling your diabetes you can help control your periodontal disease. By controlling periodontal disease, you can in turn make diabetes more manageable and stable.

Diabetes isn’t the only health area that the mouth has been connected to. Research has also established that gum disease and heart disease are connected. It is estimated that up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontal disease. This is in comparison to the 66% of patients who don’t suffer from heart disease. Periodontal disease and heart disease have several risk factors in common: such as a poor diet, smoking, and obesity. Research has indicated that having inflammation in the oral cavity can cause inflammation in the blood vessels.

This increases the risk of a heart attack due to several factors: Inflamed blood vessels allow less blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body, because the blood goes through a smaller space our blood pressure increases. With an increased blood pressure fatty deposits are more likely to break off from a blood vessel. If this happens this deposit can travel to the heart, or even the brain. The result can be a stroke, heart attack, or even death.

Osteoporosis and periodontitis share a very similar feature. Both result from bone loss. The link between these two diseases is still being heavily studied, and the information linking the two is still highly debated. Major differences between the two are where they result in bone loss and who they primarily affect. Osteoporosis affects the bones in the legs and arms. In contrast, Periodontal Disease impacts the jaw bone and the bone surrounding our teeth. Studies confirm osteoporosis affects females in majority, whereas periodontitis is more common to males. Studies have shown that more often than not women with osteoporosis suffer from periodontitis in comparison to women without the disease. Tests are currently being studied being carried out to see if the inflammation triggered by periodontitis could weaken bone in other parts of the body.

In recent years declining health in America has sparked an interest for research in health. Because research is finding so many connections between oral and systemic health, there still remains a lot of information that is not fully understood. Connections between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other systemic conditions are suggested, but not confirmed. Either way, oral cavity health impacts our systemic health. Good oral health is critical for having an optimally healthy life.

The oral conditions of periodontitis and cavities, which impact systemic conditions can be avoided, or drastically reduced by adding simple steps to your daily routine. If you notice bleeding in an area of your mouth that never used to bleed this is a sign this area needs more attention when brushing and flossing. The logic seems a little backwards, considering we often think we should avoid these areas, but avoiding the area can actually make the problem worse.

Our offices advise everyone to brush at least twice daily. Also using interdental aids such as floss, handisticks, and other interdental aids to brush away bacteria where your toothbrush cannot reach are also very important for in-between your teeth. Another great method for reducing bacteria in the mouth is to use a mouthrinse such as Listerine. The most common places for cavities to form are in between your teeth and in the grooves of our teeth. Brushing can help keep the grooves clean. But, if we are not flossing between the teeth, we’re more likely to develop cavities.

It is critical to see a dental hygienist at least twice a year to keep your teeth and gums clean and stable. Dental hygienists have the skills and training to clean under your gums with specific instruments where daily home techniques cannot reach. Most importantly, we encourage all of our patients to come in at least two times per year. Every patient is different and sometimes it is necessary to come in even more frequently for cleanings to help keep the oral cavity healthy and stable.

Here at Lincoln Family Dentistry, we offer a great hygiene service with our team of experienced and friendly hygienists. It is their mission to give you a spotless, healthy smile, as well as enjoy your time at our offices. For regular cleaning appointments we offer half-hour appointments or hourly appointments, depending on the severity of your mouth. For any advice about gum disease, gum disease symptoms, or to address questions you may have, please give us a call, or send us an email.


The information on this page was written by Dr. Kelly O’Hara.

This gentle Lincoln, NE dentists says: “I perform gentle dentistry for the entire family and focus on children’s dentistry, extreme smile makeovers, cosmetic dentistry and placing mercury-free dental fillings. Moreover, I also want to provide a better quality of life to patients who have lost their teeth by making implant retained dentures. I have many goals, but one that is very important to many of us: to keep dentistry affordable by taking all of the primary dental plans and by also offering dental payment plans to patients that seek them. I am fully committed to making sure all patients feel comfortable while in my care.”

You can schedule with this Lincoln, NE dentist, or his partners, online 24/7 at a Lincoln Family Dentistry Location near you. This “dentist near me” serves the local communities close to Lincoln. Some of the communities include Eagle, Walton, Weeping Water, Avoca, and many more!


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