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It’s common knowledge that we have to take good care of our teeth and gums to maintain a healthy smile. What might not be so widely known is how vital our teeth and gums are to our overall health. That’s right: when your Clemson dentist tells you to brush twice and floss at least once daily, they’re not just saying it for fun! Proper oral hygiene (or lack thereof) can have significant impacts on your whole body, for better or worse.

In this post, the Carolina Oaks Dental Care of Clemson team will share everything you need to know about the link between gum disease and your overall health, including:

  • What gum disease is
  • The health risks of gum disease
  • How to avoid gum disease

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a serious gum condition caused by infection or inflammation in the gums. Brought on by bad bacteria in the mouth, gum disease is usually the result of poor oral hygiene. Without sufficient and effective brushing and flossing, plaque and bacteria build up between the teeth and on the gums, infecting and damaging the tissues and bone surrounding the teeth.

In its early stages, gum disease is known as gingivitis, which is characterized by redness, inflammation and sometimes bleeding gums. If the infection progresses, it becomes known as periodontitis, a serious condition that can wreak havoc on your overall health. The tissues can become so damaged that the teeth may even begin to loosen and fall out. Periodontitis mostly affects adults and is one of the most common oral health concerns.

Symptoms of gum disease may include:

  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Red or purple gums
  • Tender gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth or tooth loss
  • Pain with chewing
  • Receding gums

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you’ll want to get assessed by your Clemson dentist to rule out — or diagnose — gum disease. The earlier we catch the condition, the better chances you have to overcome it!

Can Gum Disease Cause Other Health Issues?

Besides the obvious dental concerns (like red, puffy gums or loosening teeth) that gum disease can cause, periodontitis can also lead to other serious health concerns. Some studies show that the bacteria that causes periodontitis can potentially get into your bloodstream where it then can travel to other parts of your body. While research is still being done, these studies have shown a link between gum disease and heart health, respiratory disease, diabetes, premature birth and more.

Heart disease

Gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, most notably coronary artery disease. Scientists believe the connection lies in the inflammation caused by bad bacteria entering the bloodstream, which can then cause inflammation in the arteries and heart.

Respiratory illness

Some studies have shown that periodontal bacteria can be drawn into the lungs from breathing, which may lead to pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.


Since people with diabetes are more prone to infections, researchers believe they may also be more likely to develop gum and periodontal disease. The connection may, in fact, flow both ways: diabetes may be a risk factor for periodontal disease and periodontal disease may also increase a person’s risk or symptoms of diabetes.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

There’s evidence to suggest that periodontal disease may also affect our brain health. It again comes back to the bacteria that causes gum disease. Plaque doesn’t stay isolated to the mouth — it may spread to other parts of the body, including the brain.

Premature birth or pregnancy loss

Gum disease may have a negative impact on pregnancy and birth outcomes. Some studies show a higher incidence of miscarriage or preterm birth in patients with periodontal disease. The condition may also make it harder to conceive.


Periodontal disease has been associated with certain types of cancer. This does not mean there is a causal relationship but research suggests that gum disease may be a risk factor.

How to Avoid Gum Disease

Whew, we know we just dropped some scary information on you. Before you panic, here’s the good news: it’s incredibly simple to avoid gum disease and periodontitis! With proper oral hygiene, you can keep plaque and bacteria at bay, maintain healthy teeth and gums, and support your overall health. All you have to do is:

  • Floss at least once a day, getting all the way up to the gum line. We recommend flossing before brushing so you can loosen up bacteria and debris, and then brush and rinse it away.
  • Brush your teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed.
  • Use mouthwash as an added layer of protection to rinse all the bad stuff away and feel super fresh, but water will also do the trick.
  • Visit your Clemson dentist every six months for regular checkups and routine cleanings. We can check in on your tooth and gum health, and watch out for potential signs of gum disease.

Need to book your next visit with your Clemson dentist? Contact Carolina Oaks Dental Care of Clemson today!

Author Dr. Carpenter

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