To date, scientists have found associations between periodontal disease and a number of other problems, including:
What's behind the links? Experts can't say for certain, but they believe that oral bacteria can escape into the bloodstream and injure major organs.
Inflammation is probably a common denominator, experts say. Periodontal disease, marked by inflammation, may increase inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation, in turn, is an underlying problem in diseases including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Over the years, many studies have found an association between periodontal disease and heart disease, with patients who have gum disease more likely also to have poor heart health, including heart attacks.
In 2009, a consensus paper on the relationship between heart disease and gum disease was developed by the American Academy of Periodontology and The American Journal of Cardiology. It was published in the Journal of Periodontology and The American Journal of Cardiology.
The joint recommendations encourage cardiologists to ask their patients about any gum disease problems, and the periodontists to ask their patients about any family history of heart disease and their heart health.
So don't be surprised if your periodontist or your internist or cardiologist asks you some new questions on your next visit.
If you have diabetes, you are more likely than people who don't have diabetes to have gum disease. Why? Again, inflammation may be partly to blame. And, those with diabetes are more likely to contract any infections, including gum disease.
If your diabetes is not under control, you are at even higher risk of gum disease.