Healthy Smile, Healthy You: 5 Reasons to Mind Your Mouth


Most people understand that taking great care of your mouth is important—you want a beautiful smile, healthy gums, and cavity-free teeth for life and you want to avoid gum disease, decay, and tooth loss. However, keeping your mouth healthy and well isn’t just important for the health of your teeth and gums—it’s essential for the health of your entire body. Neglecting oral hygiene, not keeping regular appointments with your dentist, and letting small problems develop into big ones can have serious consequences when it comes to your overall health.

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can develop when plaque builds up along and under the gum line, causing infections to form. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unfortunately, its consequences extend far beyond the oral cavity. Here are five significant health complications of periodontal disease:

1. Increased Risk of Heart Disease and/or Stroke

“People with periodontal disease are two times more likely to develop heart disease and arterial narrowing as a result of bacteria and plaque entering the bloodstream through the gums.”

Bacteria from periodontal disease contains a clot-promoting protein that can spell big problems for your heart when it enters the bloodstream. In addition to increased risk of heart attack, these clots can also affect your carotid artery, responsible for circulation of blood to the brain, increasing the risk of stroke significantly.

2. Increased Risk of Respiratory Disease

If the bacteria from periodontal disease manages to reach your lungs, it can irritate and aggravate your respiratory system, especially if you’re already experiencing respiratory issues such as pneumonia and COPD.

3. Complications Associated with Diabetes

Having diabetes leaves you at an increased risk for developing infections. As a result, it is estimated that “95% of US adults with diabetes also have periodontal disease and 1/3 have such advanced disease that has lead to tooth loss.”

This is why tooth loss is often associated with diabetes. People with diabetes must be especially diligent when it comes to oral care to prevent periodontal disease from forming. Researchers are finding increasing evidence that periodontal disease has a dramatic effect on blood sugar levels in the body, which can make complications associated with diabetes much worse. In other words, the connection between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways.

4. Increased Risk of Erectile Dysfunction

Once again, the bacteria from periodontal disease can make its way through the bloodstream to all parts of your body, including genitals. This bacteria can cause inflammation of blood vessels, which can block flow to genitals and effect performance. In fact, men with periodontal disease are up to 79% more likely to develop erectile dysfunction.

5. Increased Risk of Cancer

Risk for several cancers—including kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers in men and esophageal and gallbladder cancers in women—has been shown to be significantly higher for patients with periodontal disease. “Although the exact mechanism is unknown, gum pathogens could reach sites in the body through swallowed saliva, causing inflammation in other organs,” suggests an article in the New York Times from this past August.

Brushing properly, flossing daily, and keeping regular dental appointments goes a lot further than preventing occasional cavities or keeping teeth pearly-white. The health of your entire body depends on great oral hygiene. To learn more about the connection between oral and overall health, visit Dr. Richard Murdoch at

Dr. Murdoch serves patients in the Centennial area of Denver, Colorado.

December 7, 2017