What is Gum Disease, and why does it matter?

I drive around Franklin County with a bumper sticker that reads, “Gum Disease can kill more than your smile.”  I know it sounds like something a health geek would care about, but I’d like to share with you why all of us can live a little better and a little longer if we understand this simple phrase. Here’s the story…

Gum disease (periodontal disease) affects 46 percent of the U.S. population and is caused by bacteria that grow on the teeth under the gums. It’s something to know about even if you are a good brusher and have a beautiful smile, because it’s possible to have great teeth and yet terrible gum disease, but you might never know it. The people around you know it though, because gum disease causes a kind of really bad breath that you can’t smell but others can sometimes three or four feet away.


It’s possible to have an ongoing low grade gum infection and lose half the bone that once held your teeth tightly in the gums. Sometimes the only sign is occasional bleeding gums when brushing or flossing.

The inflammation process involved in Gum disease is a “sneaky killer” like high blood pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea, because there are few symptoms until you experience some other major health failure. Just like high blood pressure can lead to stroke at any age, undiscovered diabetes can permanently effect your eyesight, and chronic sleep apnea worsens heart disease and emotional stability, gum disease causes irreversible changes that can be enormously hard to manage after the fact.

Doctors are learning more and more about how gum disease may be related to heart disease, unstable diabetes control and many other serious conditions. If you just google “gum disease and health risks” you will see why my bumper sticker is spot on. Here’s a short list:  


Research finds that 80% of people who dies of heart attacks also have gum disease. That's a very important correlation!


Research finds that men with gum disease are 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.


Researcher suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw that may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation.


Research has found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease.

If you would like to learn more about your treatment options, please contact us to set up an appointment!