Bacterial infections in gum tissue may affect more than your teeth and gums. Research has established associations between oral bacteria and systemic diseases including:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Blood Clots
  • Strokes
  • Preterm and Low Birth Weight Babies
  • Chronic Inflammation.
Image of biofilm from a periodontal pocket.

The theories linking oral bacteria to other diseases explain that the mouth may be a portal for bacteria to spread to the rest of your body.

Bacteria form colonies (called biofilms) that cause localized inflammation and ulcerations in your gum tissue. Those bacteria may enter the blood stream through the small ulcers in the gum tissue.

© MSU Center for Biofilm Engineering, used with permission.

The growth of bacteria in periodontal pockets occurs in three stages. After the first stage of attachment, the bacteria form a colony called a biofilm with a filmy or slimy protective covering. The most advanced stage of biofilm growth involves clumps of bacteria detaching from the colony to form new infections.

© MSU Center for Biofilm Engineering, used with permission.

The bacterial infection can spread when small clumps of bacteria detach in a “seeding” effect to form new colonies and new infections. Left unchecked, bacterial growth and the resulting inflammation can lead to the destruction of teeth and eventually the bone supporting the teeth. Because the bacteria may spread through your body to threaten more than your teeth and gums, it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors and treat any infected areas of your mouth.

People who have a family history of disease may be genetically predisposed and need to discuss ways to protect their health with their doctor. It is important for everyone to eat right, not smoke, and take care of their oral health.

Heart Disease, Stroke, Hardening of the Arteries (atherosclerosis)
Once oral bacteria enter the body, they may cause inflammation, which in combination with fat deposits can lead to a build up of plaque clogging blood flow and to a build up of blood platelets causing blood clots. These conditions may be responsible for heart attacks, strokes, and other dangerous health conditions.

Controlling gum disease has a positive effect in controlling diabetes. Diabetic patients with gum disease have a higher blood sugar level and require more medication to manage their diabetes. When the gum disease was treated, the blood sugar levels decreased and stayed lower for 3 months.

Respiratory Disease
Bacteria present in gum disease have also been located in lung tissue in patients with lung abscesses.

Alzheimer’s Disease
The bacteria associated with Alzheimer’s Disease have been isolated in the periodontal pockets and along the nerves from the teeth to the brain tissue. When these bacteria are introduced into brain cultures, beta amyloid is formed, which is the substance associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Pre-term and Low Birth Weight Babies
Pregnant women with gum disease have a 57% incidence of low birth weight babies and a 50% greater incidence of preterm deliveries. Researchers continue to examine these correlations to determine the relationship between gum disease and pregnancy.

As research continues, it is important to understand that oral bacterial infections are serious and that they should be treated. Please talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you.

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