Research consistently shows that gum disease raises the risks of other illnesses throughout the body. Conventional wisdom holds that this is due to bacteria, but newer research shows that inflammation may actually be the culprit. Regardless, the best way to reduce your risk of gum disease-linked health conditions is to treat gum disease as soon as possible. Here is what you should know.

Graphic of four teeth demonstrating the four stages of gum disease on a green background.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease occurs when dental plaque and tartar invade the spaces between the gums and the teeth. If not treated, the gums can become infected and inflamed. Gum disease is divided into two basic stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. 

Gingivitis is the earliest stage. You may notice that your gums look red and irritated, and you may notice bleeding when you brush your teeth. At this point, gum disease is relatively easy to reverse with a renewed commitment to brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings.

Periodontitis is more severe. At this point, pockets form as the gums start to pull away from the teeth. Over time, the tooth may become loose and eventually fall out or need to be extracted.

Diabetes and Gum Disease

People with diabetes are more prone to infections in general, increasing the risk of developing gum disease. This is especially true if your blood sugar is not tightly controlled. At the same time, gum disease makes it more difficult to control your blood sugar. If you have severe periodontitis, you may be unable to bring down your blood sugar to acceptable levels, putting you at risk for diabetic complications.

Heart Disease and Gum Disease

Although causality has not yet been proven, heart disease and gum disease appear to be closely linked. It is likely that the inflammation associated with gum disease is responsible for the link. 

In addition, if you have certain heart conditions, you may need antibiotics before any dental work. Talk to both your dentist and your cardiologist to determine whether this is true for you.

Stroke and Gum Disease

Some studies show that gum disease increases the risk of stroke. In particular, those with acute cerebrovascular ischemia appear to be more likely to have an oral infection than those in a control group.

Respiratory Disease and Gum Disease

It appears that bacteria in the oral cavity could be aspirated into the lungs. The bacteria increase the risk of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. The sheer quantity of bacteria associated with gum disease means that people with gum disease are at an increased risk.

Gum disease has been implicated or suspected in a wide range of systemic health issues. Fortunately, gum disease is relatively easy to treat, especially in its earlier stages. We will perform a thorough evaluation and offer our professional advice.


At Family Dental Care of Bellevue, we are committed to providing quality dental care to our patients and their families. We are proud to have been voted one of the best dental offices in Washington State. If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to call 425-643-5778 today to make an appointment for your initial consultation.

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