Periodontal Disease and Systemic Health: The Mouth / Body Connection


Research has shown that periodontal disease is associated with several other diseases.  We know that this relationship is based, not only on the bacteria infecting the roots of the teeth and gum tissue, but also the body’s potent inflammatory response to the bacteria.   


People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes.  This is most likely a result of the fact that diabetes significantly reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. Furthermore, diabetes significantly impacts the body’s circulatory sytem. This leads to thickening of vascular walls and narrowing of the blood vessels, making it more difficult for the body to deliver nutrients and cells that fight infection to most tissues, including your gums.


This relationship is highly dependent on the level of diabetic control and the relationship goes both ways.  Periodontal disease has also been linked to prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar in diabetic patients.


Cardiovascular Disease


Several studies have shown a positive relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease.  While cause and effect has not been established, chronic inflammation associated with peri odontal disease has been shown to exacerbate existing heart conditions.  Periodontal disease is a risk factor for developing heart disease.

Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your periodontist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.  Common indications for requiring antibiotics prior to a dental procedure include:


  • Artificial joint

  • Artificial heart valve

  • History of rheumatic heart disease

  • History of bacterial endocardititis

Alzheimer's Disease

Periodontal disease has been associated with an increased risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease.  The study, published in the journal Science Advances, uncovered a potential link between P. gingivalis, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease (commonly known as gum disease) and Alzheimer’s. Researchers noted that the presence of P. gingivalis increased the production of amyloid beta, a component of the amyloid plaques whose accumulation contributes to Alzheimer’s. The study confirmed via animal testing that P. gingivalis can travel from the mouth to the brain and that the related gingipains can destroy brain neurons. These findings are noteworthy in that they suggest a biological mechanism for how periodontal disease bacteria may play a role in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.



Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. In one study that looked at the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.




Researchers have suggested that there is a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. Studies suggest that osteoporosis 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.


Respiratory Disease


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.