For many years, studies have pointed to associations between oral health and systemic health, and research is continuously underway to further examine this connection. Below is a collection of some of the most current and compelling research exploring the connection between oral health and overall health.
A 2018 study by Tufts University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows a strong link between gum disease and cancer. Patients with severe gum disease were 28 percent more likely to develop cancer overall than those with no or mild gum disease.1
Patients with severe gum disease had an 80 percent greater risk of developing colon cancer, and the risk for lung cancer increased twofold in patients who had never smoked, according to the same study. Researchers at the University of Buffalo’s School of Public Health also found that women who had gum disease had a 14 percent overall increased risk of breast cancer over women who didn’t have gum disease.2
As the number of people suffering from dementia climbs, the scientific community continues to search for answers about this devastating disease. A recent Taiwanese study from the Chung Shan Medical University showed that even after adjusting for other factors that might influence the development of Alzheimer’s, people who had chronic gum disease for 10 or more years were 70 percent more likely than people without periodontitis to develop Alzheimer’s disease.3
Japanese researchers at Kyushu University seeking to expand on a possible connection between cognitive function and tooth loss found that older adults with missing teeth were more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease within five years.4
Diabetes is considered a major risk factor for gum disease. In a University of Amsterdam study of over 300 dental patients, those with gum disease were more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those without gum disease.5 And new research out of Newcastle University in the U.K. suggests that the connection between diabetes and gum disease is actually a two-way relationship—not only is diabetes a risk factor for gum disease, but gum disease may have a negative effect on glycemic control, leading to a vicious cycle that deteriorates the health of people living with diabetes.6
Heart Disease and Stroke
Ongoing studies have shown a strong association between gum disease and heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Researchers are continuing to explore this relationship to determine whether the connection is causal or due to a shared underlying condition.
New research presented at the American Stroke Association’s 2017 International Stroke Conference found that adult dental patients with gum disease are twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke compared to those who did not have gum disease, while another study concluded that regular dental care could significantly lower patients’ stroke risk.7
Studies show a strong connection between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis. In a Columbia University study of men and women who underwent medical exams and an assessment for periodontal disease between 1996 and 1998, those who had moderate to severe periodontitis had more than twice the risk of RA compared to those with mild or no periodontitis.8
Another study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens found that the bacterium that causes gum disease increases the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, leads to an earlier onset of the disease and causes symptoms to progress more quickly.9 Subsequent research out of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests that this bacterium may be a possible trigger for autoimmune disease in a subset of rheumatoid arthritis patients.10
Women’s oral health can be impacted by factors including pregnancy and menopause. Two studies presented at the 2017 International Association for Dental Research annual meeting suggest that pregnant women may face greater risk of tooth decay and gingival bleeding.11
Researchers from the University of Buffalo examining the relationship between gum disease and cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women found an association between gum disease and higher mortality rates—as well as a connection between missing teeth and both cardiovascular disease and mortality.12
The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.