Gum inflammation raises risk of chronic health conditions

Woman bares teeth pointing to her inflammed gumline.


During a season rife with wellness resolutions, optimum oral health might not be high on the list, though it should be.

Researchers worldwide have linked oral health to overall health several times, especially in relation to the development of gum disease, known as periodontal disease, which develops when bacteria in the mouth are not properly managed through a good oral health care routine.

The School of Dentistry’s Georgios A. Kotsakis, DDS, MS, associate professor of periodontics, was a part of a global team including nearly 400 epidemiologists.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal March 2022, demonstrated that periodontitis, which is inflamed and infected gums, can increase risk for the development and progression of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory illnesses for aging individuals.

In an interview for the school’s Salute magazine, Kotsakis said health providers now understand that periodontitis is consistently one of the top 10 most prevalent chronic conditions globally.

This level of chronic inflammation caused by untreated periodontal disease has been shown to weaken the lining of blood vessels throughout the body, aiding in the progression of cardiovascular issues, and make the management of blood sugar more difficult for diabetics, leading to a higher incidence of disease-related consequences, such as kidney failure, according to the School of Dentistry.

Research has also linked chronic inflammation and aging to the development of other serious diseases, such as colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia.

“As oral health professionals and educators, we need to elevate the role, position and perceived impact of dentistry within the medical community if we’re going to tackle this health issue,” Kotsakis said in his interview.

The General Dentistry Clinic at UT Dentistry has recently established extended patient care hours for those interested in prioritizing their oral health care routine in the new year.

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