gum disease
Health Topics

Neglecting teeth and gums can lead to health concerns


December 23, 2016

Learn the signs of gum disease and why you should pay attention


We learn at an early age the importance of brushing and flossing to achieve fresh breath and a beautiful smile, but we need to maintain healthy mouths for a much more important reason: overall health.

Although more studies are needed, the American Dental Association reports that some researchers suspect links with periodontitis (the advanced form of gum disease) and other serious health problems or systemic diseases— even life-threatening ones.

The reverse is also a concern. Certain conditions or diseases, like diabetes (see this slideshow), Crohn’s, HIV, leukemia and anemia, can lower a person’s ability to fight infection, which can make gum disease more severe.

“The relationship between your mouth and the rest of your body is strong enough that you have to take antibiotics for certain heart conditions, prosthetics joints, organ transplants and artificial heart valves to just have a simple dental cleaning,” says Tyler Ames, DMD, assistant professor of clinical oral and naxillofacial surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dentistry Department. “The concern is bacteria going from your mouth into your bloodstream.”

Common signs of gum disease

Get regular six-month dental checkups so that your doctor can watch for any issues. Bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue) or periodontitis (bone loss). “Once the bone goes away,” Ames says, “it will not grow back in most cases, even with surgery.”

The advanced stages of gum disease

Periodontitis can cause tooth loss. “Losing all of your teeth can take years off of your life from the digestive issues that may arise,” Ames says. In addition, although researchers have not yet found a cause-and-effect relationship, periodontitis strongly correlates with heart disease and low birth weight.

Dental health emergencies

Abscessed teeth can become a life-threatening situation or lead to disfigurement. If you suspect an infection or have a fever or trouble opening your mouth, swallowing or breathing, you should seek prompt medical attention. “These are all very serious and need to be addressed immediately by a dentist, oral surgeon or emergency room,” Ames says.



If you have pain or an emergency situation, Vanderbilt Dentistry will make every attempt to see you the same day. Call 615-322-2193 to make an appointment.