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Dental Health and Overall Health — Understanding the Connection


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Published on Dec 19, 2016

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Key Takeaways

Untreated periodontal disease is linked to, among other chronic conditions, poor cardiovascular health.

dental2There appears to be a bi-directional relationship between periodontitis and some systemic health conditions driven by the body’s immune response to increased inflammation.

dental3Studies suggest that proper management and treatment of periodontal disease has the potential to decrease medical costs and reduce hospital admissions related to chronic systemic diseases.

dental4-3Dental care is integral to whole-person health and dental insurance helps provide that benefit.


Periodontal diseases are among the most common diseases in humans. The most prevalent form of periodontal disease is gingivitis, which is caused by bacteria in dental plaque, characterized by inflammation of the gums, and is reversible with good oral hygiene. Periodontitis occurs when disease progresses and the gums pull away from the tooth, creating a space between the gum and tooth where bacteria can fester, multiply, and cause destruction of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone supporting the teeth. Treating periodontitis requires professional care. Observational studies continue to find potential associations between periodontitis and several systemic health conditions.

One result of untreated periodontitis is increased inflammation and inflammatory products elsewhere in the body. This inflammation may adversely impact individuals managing conditions such as coronary artery disease (CAD) cerebral vascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Some researchers hypothesize that gum disease develops first and may promote heart disease through chronic infection and bacteria in the circulatory system, while others point out that atherosclerosis can begin in childhood and progress over many decades and may be worsened by the presence of inflammatory components from periodontal disease.