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The Connection Between Gum Disease and Health

By Dr. Michael J. Olmstead, D.D.S.

This article is an elaboration on comments made to a patient about the contribution of gum disease to systemic inflammation and various other common health issues.

It has been well established for over 25 years that gum disease that affects 75% of adults and 40% of children plays a major role in many systemic conditions. Scientific research has isolated diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, abnormal pregnancy outcomes, gastric and duodenal ulcers as some of the problems that periodontal (gum) disease is strongly associated with.

Let’s take a brief but deeper look at each of these.


The chances of developing type 2 (age onset) diabetes is nearly twice as high for people with varying degrees of periodontal disease. Chronic systemic inflammation elevates inflammatory mediators that can induce insulin resistance.


A meta-analysis showed that people with periodontitis have nearly a 1.5 times greater risk of CVD (cerebrovascular disease and stroke). Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US. One culprit may be the increase in circulating fibrinogen (a clotting agent) caused by the chronic inflammation of gum disease.

Cardiovascular Disease

The number one cause of death in the US is definitely associated with systemic inflammation and bacteria. When the arterial plaques taken from coronary arteries were examined, 44% had at least one periodontal pathogen and 59% of this group had two or more.

Respiratory Disease

Pneumonia, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and bronchitis are but three of the respiratory conditions that are linked to the bacteria and inflammation of periodontal disease. The disease causing oral bacteria are easily drawn into the lower respiratory area. Bacteria responsible for periodontal disease have been isolated in the lungs. The increased inflammation from gum disease also allows the pathogens to adhere to the mucous membranes of the lungs.


The bacterial infections associated with periodontal disease can result in a many times higher risk for premature delivery of abnormal birth weight children. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible because of hormonal factors associated with pregnancy. It appears that inflammation impacts hormones responsible for normal birth processes. Bacteroides gingivalis, found in periodontal disease has been isolated in amniotic fluid.

Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers

The latest research indicates that bacteria are primarily associated as a cause for gastric and duodenal ulcers. One of the main culprits is H. Pylori. In one study it was found that 98% of subjects had this organism in their dental plaque, and nearly 70% had the organism in the gastric lining. The oral cavity seems to be the reservoir for the H.Pylori to “seed” to the gastric areas.

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
At this point, it is more than obvious that there is not a casual but direct connection between these epidemic health conditions and periodontal disease. The prevention is not only simple, but easily understood.

1. Floss and brush 2 times per day—Correctly!
2. Have your teeth cleaned professionally 2-4 X per year.
3. If you have red, swollen or bleeding gums, loose teeth or gum recession, seek the advice of a dental professional now.

Moderate to advanced cases of periodontal disease, although more costly to treat, can be controlled and greatly reduce your risks of the above health issues.

If you have further questions, you can email Dr. Michael Olmstead:
consult@drolmstead.com or visit www.drolmstead.com


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