Dental Health

Everyone knows that you have to take care of your teeth to prevent gum disease and cavities. What you might not know is that gum disease has been linked to more serious health conditions, including premature and low-birth-weight babies, diabetes and heart disease.

Keeping Teeth Healthy for a Lifetime

Regular dentist visits and daily preventive measures can help you avoid oral health problems.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, making sure to brush along the gum line.
  • Floss at least once a day to clean between your teeth and under your gums.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods from all the food groups.
  • Limit sweet snacks and beverages. When you do consume food or beverages with sugar, rinse your mouth with water and brush as soon as possible afterward.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • If you're pregnant, or have diabetes or cardiovascular disease, take extra care of your gums and tell your dentist about any signs of periodontal disease.
  • Don't smoke. Smokers often have more trouble with their teeth and gums, including teeth loss.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

  • Red and swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together

How Dental Disease Begins

All oral diseases start when bacteria cling to tooth surfaces. Bacteria are removed through regular brushing and flossing, which also are key to preventing or controlling damage to your teeth and gums.

Because gum disease is painless, many people don't realize they have it until significant damage has already been done. When your gums become infected, bacteria and toxins enter your bloodstream, which may worsen other health conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers have uncovered potential links between gum disease, called periodontitis, and other serious health conditions.1 These conditions include:

  • Diabetes – 95% of people with diabetes also have periodontal disease. Because diabetes lowers resistance and delays healing, people with poorly controlled diabetes have more dental problems and are prone to lose more teeth. Untreated, gum disease can make it difficult to stabilize blood sugar levels. Caring for your mouth when you have diabetes is essential to keeping both diabetes and gum disease in check.2,3
  • Heart disease – There is a connection between gum disease and heart disease. Researchers have found that people with gum disease are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than those without. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that patients with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease and that this is independent of other factors such as smoking or diabetes. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by gum disease may be responsible for the association. If you have heart disease, let your dentist know; your dentist will work with you to design a treatment plan that can positively impact not only your oral health but your overall health.
  • Pregnancy complications – Pregnant women who have gum disease may be more likely to suffer pregnancy complications. Doctors recommend that women considering pregnancy have a periodontal evaluation. Learn more about dental health during pregnancy.

Other Dental Health Information

The information provided is for educational purposes only.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oral health: Preventing cavities, gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancers, July 29, 2011.

2. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments, NIH Publication No. 11-1142, July 2011, no copyright.

3. American Academy of Periodontology, Gum Disease and Diabetes, last modified February 23, 2011.

4. American Academy of Periodontology, last modified February 23, 2011.