General Family Dentist | Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Gladstone, Happy Valley and Portland, OR

Kevin H. Speer, D.D.S.
2250 SE Oak Grove Blvd.
Milwaukie, OR 97267


Gum Disease and it’s effect on systemic health

Millions of Americans are affected by periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, every year. Research has revealed that of those aged 30 or older, 64.1 million of them had some stage of periodontal disease. Further studies revealed that those suffering from the condition had higher instances of systemic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and even breast cancer. Based on these numbers it is evident that oral health bears a greater importance on our overall health than we previously thought.

What Is A Systemic Disease?

The term systemic means “affecting, or affected by, an entire system”, in this case the human body and its overall health. So a disease that is systemic has an effect on the functioning of multiple areas of the body, typically by reducing your body’s ability to handle infection and keep inflammation at bay. Research has revealed that the underlying connection between systemic disease and gum disease may be inflammation, and thus managing the inflammation could aid in treating both. However, for all the correlations shown between the two, what has yet to be proven is whether one can, in fact, cause the other.

What Forms Of Systemic Diseases Are Associated With Gum Disease?

There are a number of conditions that have been associated with gum disease, and if you yourself suffer from one of these conditions its important to alert your dentist so that your care plan can be properly modified to account for it.


Diabetes appears to have a circular relationship with gum disease, with gum disease making it difficult for those with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. This, in turn, leads to an environment in the mouth that makes it difficult to control bacteria responsible for gum disease. As a result, tooth loss is more common in those with diabetes.

Heart Disease

For all that the heart is one of the most sturdy organs in the body, it is also the one that seems the most sensitive to systemic disease. Gum disease in particular can be a problem as the bacteria responsible grow beneath the gum line, close to the circulatory system. Improved oral health means a reduction in the amount of bacteria present in your heart.


Ischemic strokes have been shown to have a correlation to severe periodontal disease due to the inflammation caused by periodontal disease and the hardening of the arteries that can occur as a result. Good oral health can reduce your susceptibility to strokes.

Breast Cancer

It may come as a surprise to find that improved oral health can lead to improved breast health, but those who have poor oral health have a 14% greater chance of developing breast cancer. This number increases to 30% if the woman in question is also a smoker, even if they last time they smoked was within the last 20 years.

This data has made it evident that improving your oral health is an important aspect of improving your overall health. While gum disease has yet to be determined to be a causal factor in systemic disease, the correlation is too high to ignore. Take steps to improve your oral health, your life may actually depend on it.