Kenneth M. Lubritz, DDS
Periodontics & Dental Implants
All Good Things Begin With a Smile!
Call: (713) 789-7676

The Periodontal Systemic Link

Research has continuously shown that periodontal disease is linked to other conditions that may impact the rest of the body. The inflammation that occurs when the gums become infected can travel through the bloodstream, increasing your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Caring for your gums is just as important as keeping your teeth clean. Without brushing and flossing properly, bacteria will begin to build up in between your teeth and, over time, start to penetrate your gums. Preserving the health of your teeth often begins with maintaining your gums.

Periodontists have several years of training after graduation from dental school which makes them uniquely qualified to treat periodontal problems associated with systemic conditions.

Gum Disease and Systemic Health

Systemic health refers to the stability of your body, including your organs and tissues. There are several reasons why your systemic health may come into jeopardy, your gum health being part of the system. Although other lifestyle habits, like smoking, alcoholism or an unhealthy diet can deteriorate your whole system, the health of your dentition can certainly expedite any underlying problems with the rest of your body.

Your gums can become infected for a few reasons. Typically, bacteria that has developed into tartar can penetrate below your gum line and create the beginning stages of gum disease. Left untreated and the disease can deteriorate the gums, causing them to recede and your teeth to loosen, as well as triggering your bone to dissolve.


A research study has shown that individuals with pre-existing diabetic conditions are more likely to either have, or be more susceptible to periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease can increase blood sugar levels which makes controlling the amount of glucose in the blood difficult.  This factor alone can increase the risk of serious diabetic complications.  Conversely, diabetes thickens blood vessels and therefore makes it harder for the mouth to rid itself of excess sugar.  Excess sugar in the mouth creates a breeding ground for the types of oral bacteria that cause gum disease.

Heart Disease

There are several theories which explain the link between heart disease and periodontitis.  One such theory is that the oral bacteria strains which exacerbate periodontal disease attach themselves to the coronary arteries when they enter the bloodstream.  This in turn contributes to both blood clot formation and the narrowing of the coronary arteries, possibly leading to a heart attack.

A second possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease causes a significant plaque build up.  This can swell the arteries and worsen pre-existing heart conditions.  An article published by the American Academy of Periodontology suggests that patients whose bodies react to periodontal bacteria have an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Pregnancy Complications

Women in general are at increased risk of developing periodontal disease because of hormone fluctuations that occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.  Research suggests that pregnant women suffering from periodontal disease are more at risk of preeclampsia and delivering underweight, premature babies.

Periodontitis increases levels of prostaglandin, which is one of the labor-inducing chemicals.  Elevated levels prostaglandin may trigger premature labor, and increase the chances of delivering an underweight baby.  Periodontal disease also elevates C-reactive proteins (which have previously been linked to heart disease).  Heightened levels of these proteins can amplify the inflammatory response of the body and increase the chances of preeclampsia and low birth weight babies.

Respiratory Disease

Oral bacterium linked with gum disease has been shown to possibly cause or worsen conditions such as emphysema, pneumonia and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  Oral bacteria can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract during the course of normal inhalation and colonize; causing bacterial infections.  Studies have shown that the repeated infections which characterize COPD may be linked with periodontitis.

In addition to the bacterial risk, inflammation in gum tissue can lead to severe inflammation in the lining of the lungs, which aggravates pneumonia.  Individuals who suffer from chronic or persistent respiratory issues generally have low immunity.  This means that bacteria can readily colonize beneath the gum line unchallenged by body’s immune system.