Poor Dental Health Harms More Than Your Mouth

SAN FRANCISCO- Having a sparkling smile and breezy dental appointments shouldn’t be your only motivations for achieving good oral health. Did you know the condition of your teeth and gums impacts overall health, too?

“The oral cavity isn’t isolated from the rest of the body,” says San Francisco dentist Dr. Robert Walley. “In fact, the mouth is an ideal environment for bacteria growth and a gateway to the bloodstream. Poor dental health carries systemic health consequences.” 

Numerous studies have confirmed connections between gum disease and a broad scope of general health problems. Gum disease, which affects almost half of Americans ages 30 and older according to the Centers for Disease Control, is elicited by poor dental hygiene. Here are the most serious threats we think you should be aware of: 

Heart Disease

The American Academy of Periodontology says people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease. About 91 percent of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease. One WebMD article says high levels of certain bacteria in the mouth increase the chances of developing atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck. Experts suspect bacteria enter the bloodstream through inflamed, diseased gums. 

The gum/heart connection appears to run both ways. Swollen or bleeding gums could be considered signs of an impending cardiovascular issue, but that doesn’t mean a pristine dental hygiene routine negates the need for medical check ups and care. Those at a heightened risk of heart disease should treat unexplained gum issues as an additional indicator of a developing cardiovascular problem. 


Arguably the most established connection between the mouth and body, gum disease has shown to hinder the effectiveness of insulin in diabetic patients. Inflammation originating in the gums appears to inhibit the body’s ability to control blood sugar. This isn’t good news for diabetics who already lack insulin, the hormone responsible for converting sugar into energy. 

Complicating matters further, the often high blood pressure of diabetic patients create the ideal environment for infections, including gum infections. If you’re diabetic, take extra care to keep your gums healthy. 

Pregnancy Issues

Pregnancy and gum disease are strongly intertwined. Surging levels of the progesterone hormone increase the risk of gum disease in expectant mothers. The phenomenon is referred to as “pregnancy gingivitis,” and it puts growing babies at risk. 

Low birth weight and early labor are often reported with babies whose mothers have gum disease. Low birth weight can lead to learning disabilities and heart and lung conditions. We encourage pregnant patients to receive a through dental exam to ensure healthy pregnancy for mom and baby. 

Connections to dementia, arthritis, kidney disease and osteoporosis have also been uncovered, but more research is necessary to confirm the findings. Read more about it here

The consequences of neglecting your oral health are serious, but it’s easy to prevent them. Gum disease is a bacterial infection brought on by poor oral hygiene and irritants from food debris. By simply maintaining a good dental hygiene routine and receiving professional preventive care two to four times each year, you can reduce your risk of acquiring more serious oral and general health conditions. 

A good dental hygiene routine consists of: 

– Gently brushing teeth and the gum line for two minutes at a time

– Daily flossing

– Use of an antibacterial mouthwash according to its dosage recommendation 

A healthy smile will help you achieve a healthy body, and professional care is vital to maintaining strong teeth and gums. Since most people don’t seek medical attention until they are ill, we recommend patients visit Dr. Walley for health and wellness visits so we may identify impending health concerns. Contact us at Robert M. Walley, D.D.S. to set up your appointment today.