A Body Connected: How Your Gum Health Affects Your Overall Health

25 August 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


Most people would prefer it if they never had to go to the dentist again. These people often maintain largely irrational fears of dentistry and their annual dental appointments. However, without those regular trips to the dentist, a person's gum and tooth health may suffer. The standard assumption is that the health of the teeth and gums will only affect a person's mouth, but this is not the case. In fact, your gum health can affect your overall health in numerous ways. Get to know some of these connections and be sure to make your periodontal health a priority in your life.

Gum Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you have unhealthy gums, meaning you have gum disease, the plaque and bacteria that cause the infection in your gums are not isolated to your mouth. They can travel elsewhere throughout your body, causing other problems.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease in the joints. Most people would think that this health condition has nothing to do with gum disease. However, there is a protein produced by the bacteria in the mouth when a person suffers from gum disease that also appears to worsen rheumatoid arthritis. The exact mechanisms of this link are complex and difficult to discern, but the reality is that gum disease does affect rheumatoid arthritis in a negative way.

Gum Health and Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common type of dementia, accounting for anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of all cases of dementia according to the Alzheimer's Association. When a person has Alzheimer's disease, they develop what are known as plaques and tangles in the nerve cells of the brain. 

These plaques and tangles develop from proteins in the brain tissue. There is a link between the development of gum disease (which also produces proteins in the body) and Alzheimer's disease.

This link is a form of bacteria known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, which occurs in the mouth with gum disease. The bacteria has also been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. While it has not yet been determined if gum disease could be a cause of Alzheimer's, the fact that the bacteria can be found in both the mouth and the brain shows an association that requires further study. 

While doctors cannot definitively say that gum disease causes either rheumatoid arthritis or Alzheimer's disease, there are undeniable links between gum disease and these two health conditions. As such, you need to make regular dental cleanings and checkups a priority in your life. And if you notice problems with your gums, you should have your dentist refer you to a periodontist (gum specialist) right away so that you can be sure to keep your gums healthy. You never know when you could be preventing the development or worsening of other health conditions.