10 Health Conditions That Can Affect Your Teeth and Gums

  • Dental Exam
    Your Mouth, Teeth and Gums Say a Lot About Your General Health
    When you go for your routine dental exam, your dentist checks for more than just cavities. That’s because your mouth can signal problems in the rest of your body. From your heart and lungs to your immune system, be aware of these 10 health conditions linked to tooth and gum disease.

  • Blood pressure gauge in Doctors surgery
    1. High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure raises your risk of developing gum disease, so if you have it, you may be more likely to have red and bleeding gums. Medications for high blood pressure can also affect your gums and cause dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. One type of blood pressure medication, called an ACE inhibitor, may help keep your mouth healthy as well as your blood pressure down, so talk with your doctor and dentist about treatment options if you have high blood pressure.

  • senior man brushing teeth in bathroom
    2. Heart Disease
    Experts think there may be a link between oral health and heart disease, though the nature of it isn’t clear. However, if you have severe gum disease—periodontitis—you are twice as likely to have heart disease. The theory is that bacteria from your inflamed gums can travel through your body and reach your heart, causing cardiovascular problems. The healthier you keep your teeth and gums, the lower your risk of heart disease connected to oral health.

  • Mature Woman Doing Blood Sugar Test at home
    3. Diabetes
    Diabetes can cause periodontitis, the severe form of gum disease. Your gums may start to pull away from your teeth, which can make them loose or even fall out. If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk of developing periodontitis by keeping your blood sugar under control. If you have gum disease and diabetes, you probably need to work with a specialist—a periodontist—who may recommend gum surgery. Tell your diabetes team about any gum disease, too, so they can help you keep it under control with good oral hygiene and a healthy diet.

  • kidney-disease-patient-doctor
    4. Long-Term Kidney Disease
    There's a two-way link between long-term kidney disease and severe gum problems. Chronic kidney disease can lead to poor bone health, heart disease, and high blood pressure, all of which have a connection to gum disease. In turn, chronic gum infection can cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, which can further hurt your kidneys. Everyone needs to take care of their teeth and gums, but if you have kidney disease, a minor infection in your mouth could develop into something more serious. Take the best care of your mouth that you can and see your dentist regularly.

  • Doctor showing X-ray to patient
    5. Lung Disease
    Lung diseases like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bronchitis, and pneumonia may be linked to gum disease, which increases the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria can travel to your lungs and could trigger lung disease. Work with your dentist to keep your gums healthy, and tell your doctor if you have gum disease and lung symptoms like cough or shortness of breath. Smoking makes these problems worse, so if you smoke, discuss a quit smoking plan with your dentist or doctor.

  • Doctor assisting male patient on weighing scales in hospital
    6. Obesity
    If you are seriously overweight, you have an increased risk of developing periodontitis. Researchers are not sure that obesity causes periodontitis, but they think inflammation links the two problems. Fat cells produce proteins that trigger inflammation, and gum disease is an inflammatory condition. If you are overweight, work with your doctor to reach and maintain a healthy weight, which will reduce your chance of developing gum disease or other medical conditions associated with obesity.

  • elderly woman with hands on cane
    7. Osteoporosis
    If you have osteoporosis, which typically affects older women and men, your bones thin and become more fragile. Your dentist may suspect osteoporosis if you are older and have loose teeth or a loose denture, which are strong signs of weakened bones in the rest of your body. Dental X-rays may show that your jawbone has become less dense, which causes the loose teeth. You may need diet changes and medication to treat osteoporosis. Don’t wait until your annual physical. Talk with your doctor now if your dentist sees signs of the condition.

  • General Practitioner examining patients hand
    8. Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is also linked to gum disease by inflammation. Many studies suggest that RA increases the chance you’ll develop gum disease, and having gum disease increases your risk of RA. Studies show the more teeth you lose, the more severe your RA is likely to be. The important message for people with RA, and for everyone, is to see your dentist regularly and take steps to prevent gum disease: brush and floss every day, and eat healthy, nutritious food that is low in sugar and acid.

  • dental patient getting her teeth and gums examined
    HIV
    Your mouth may show signs of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) before you have symptoms elsewhere in your body. A yeast infection in your mouth, called thrush, can be an early sign of HIV. It appears as a white rash on your tongue, inner cheeks, or elsewhere in your mouth. You may also develop gum disease, mouth sores, or herpes. Most dental problems associated with HIV are treatable, and though there is no cure for HIV, the disease can often be well controlled with the many medications that are now available.

  • Close up view on senior dentures
    Anemia
    If you’re anemic, meaning you lack red blood cells, your gums may show it by being pale and sore. There are many possible reasons for anemia, and treatment will depend on the cause. You may need to take iron or vitamins to supplement your diet, or you may have a more serious condition, such as internal bleeding. If your dentist notices you have pale gums, they can refer you to the appropriate doctor.

10 Conditions That Can Affect Teeth and Gums

About The Author

Nancy LeBrun is an Emmy- and Peabody award-winning writer and producer who has been writing about health and wellness for more than five years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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  3. Heart Disease and Oral Health. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/heart-disease-and-oral-health
  4. Diabetes and Oral Health problems. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and...
  5. Researchers Caution That Tooth Loss May Increase Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease in U.S. Adults. American Academy of Periodontology. http://www.perio.org/consumer/kidney-disease
  6. Healthy Gums May Lead to Healthy Lungs. American Academy of Periodontology. http://www.perio.org/consumer/healthy-lungs
  7. Obesity and periodontitis: a link. Periodontics. http://www.agd.org/media/121047/si_323.pdf
  8. Oral Health and Bone Disease. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/oral_health/default.asp
  9. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gum Disease. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/comorbidities/gum-disease/ra-and-gum-disease.php
  10. Anemia and Women. The Well Project. https://www.thewellproject.org/hiv-information/anemia-and-women
  11. Low Blood Counts. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/treatment/managing-side-effects/low-blood-counts
  12. HIV/AIDS and Oral Health. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/h/hiv-aids-and-dental-health
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Last Review Date: 2018 Nov 7
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