There is no question that your oral health can be linked to systemic diseases in your body. Many studies are ongoing regarding the relationship between the two, showing that researchers have been aware of the connection for a while. It makes sense when you realize that many bacteria enter through the mouth. Keeping your mouth clean is the best way to circumvent these bacteria from getting into your body. 

What is periodontal disease and what are some of the systemic diseases that are related to oral health? At Sninski & Schmitt, our dental professionals are knowledgeable in this area. We can diagnose oral health issues and help you to alleviate them before they cause systemic health problems. In this article, we address the relationship between your oral health and possible systemic diseases as well as what you can do to improve your oral health.

Oral Health–Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease results from an infection that affects the gums and bones that surround and support the teeth. In the early stage, which is called gingivitis, the gums become red and swollen and may bleed when you brush your teeth. In the more advanced and serious stage, gums can separate from teeth, you can lose bone, and your teeth may loosen or fall out. 

A recent CDC report shows that 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. Additionally, data supports that periodontal disease increases as people age, with 70.1% of adults 65 years and older having periodontal disease. 


Bacteria in the mouth infect tissues around the teeth, which results in inflammation that leads to periodontal disease. If bacteria are allowed to remain on the teeth, plaque forms and then hardens to tartar (calculus). Dental plaque is a biofilm of microorganisms that attach to the surface of your teeth and which resist antibiotic treatment. Once it builds up and becomes tartar, it must be removed. Only a dental health professional can remove the tartar in order to halt the periodontal disease process.


These are warning signs that you have periodontal disease:

  • Bad breath or a bad taste that doesn’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Painful to chew
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the way a partial denture fits

Reasons for Periodontitis

Here are some factors that increase the risk for periodontal disease:

  • Pool oral hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Heredity
  • Crooked teeth
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Underlying immune deficiencies such as AIDS
  • Bridges that don’t fit properly
  • Dry mouth
  • Female hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives

Systemic Diseases Linked to Oral Health

There are several systemic diseases that are associated with oral health–diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, oral and colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes and insulin resistance, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The link between chronic periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)  has been studied for a long while, with the biological link discovered almost 40 years ago. Both RA and periodontitis (PD) are chronic inflammatory disorders that have common pathobiology. Several studies suggest a bi-directional association between RA and PD. In other words, if you have RA you may be more at risk to get PD and vice versa. Additionally, periodontitis may be a risk factor for RA due to bacterial infection and the inflammatory profile that is shared between both diseases.

Cardiovascular Disease

As many studies have shown a connection to high blood pressure, systemic inflammation, and immune response to periodontal infection could raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. The central process underlying Cardiovascular Disease is atherosclerosis, which causes the arteries to become clogged because of the plaque that forms in the arteries. Pathogens from the mouth can enter atherosclerotic plaques through the bloodstream. Multiple oral bacterial pathogens and bacterial DNAs have been discovered in atherosclerotic plaques.


Like with RA, the relationship between periodontitis and diabetes is bi-directional. Diabetes is a known risk factor for the development, progression, and severity of periodontitis. The host immune response to periodontal pathogens seems to be even more exaggerated. This hyper-inflammatory state initiates and exacerbates the destructive processes that cause periodontal tissue breakdown. By the same token, when a person has periodontitis, the ability to keep blood glucose levels balanced is impaired due to poor metabolic control. Therefore, periodontitis increases the risk of diabetic complications.


The New York Times reported a study that showed that the relative risk for dementia is 22% higher in patients with severe periodontal inflammation and 26% higher in toothless patients. These findings were confirmed in a comprehensive literature review published in 2020. The bottom line of the review is that “periodontal disease, through its inflammatory and bacterial burdens, could be a biologically plausible risk factor’ for Alzheimer’s disease.”


A study published a few years ago in Oxford’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a “24 percent increase in the relative risk of developing cancer among participants with severe periodontitis, as compared to those with mild to no periodontitis.” Some evidence points to inflammation and periodontal microorganisms when looking at the way periodontal disease may be associated with an increased risk for certain cancers in other organs. Previous research has shown a higher prevalence of proximal colon cancer, however more research needs to be done in this area.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has determined that the body’s immune response to the spread of bacteria during the later stages of gum disease can increase cancer risk by 14% to 20%. Oral cancer is linked to periodontitis because the bacteria in the mouth turn nitrate into nitrite or produce acetaldehyde, which are carcinogenic metabolites that penetrate to the underlying tissues.


Due to increased hormone levels, in particular estrogen and progesterone, pregnant women are at a greater risk to develop inflamed gums, which can lead to periodontal disease. When pregnant women have periodontitis, they may be at an increased risk of certain obstetric complications, such as having a preterm baby or one with a low birth weight.

Prevention of Periodontal Disease

The best way to prevent periodontitis is to take care of your mouth and teeth by practicing good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day, in the morning and before going to bed, and floss at least once a day. Flossing before brushing cleans away the loose food bits and bacteria in between teeth. By taking good care of your teeth and gums you remove the bacteria that causes periodontal disease.

Additionally, see your dentist on a regular basis for cleanings–this is usually every 6 to 12 months. If you have risk factors that increase your chance of developing periodontitis such as dry mouth, smoking, or taking certain medicines, you may need professional cleaning more often.

Contact Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry

At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, our professional dental team is knowledgeable and well-trainedtel:+919-600-6262 in diagnosing and treating periodontitis. We can help you achieve good oral health and stay on top of other health issues that may be related. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.