Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gum Health: Biomarker for Longevity and Health

Photo by Jeff Seldon of UK's DFID.
Many people assume that gum disease is an isolated problem.

However, gum disease can affect the health of other systems of the body. Additionally, poor oral hygiene is correlated with poor self-care in other areas of the body.

The technical terms for gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.

1. gingivitis, meaning the inflammation of the gums (called the gingiva).

2. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which happens when immflamation causes the gums pull away from the teeth and gums bleed more readily. Left untreated, people with periodontitis can lose their teeth and suffer destruction of their mouth bones, gums and other tissue.

For a more thorough discussion of the causes, prevention, and treatment of gingivitis, see Medicine Net's page here.

The significance of gum health is demonstrated further by its inclusion as a biomarker of health and longevity.

This post is part of a series on biomarkers.

Earlier this year, Science News reported that gum disease has been linked to a variety of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to liver disease to Alzheimer's disease.  In order to safeguard your overall health, it's vital to practice good oral hygiene.

In July of 2014, Harvard published on their health blog a summary of a scientific study:
The study looked at health and dental insurance records from nearly 339,000 people, all of whom had periodontal disease and one of five conditions: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease (usually a stroke), rheumatoid arthritis, or pregnancy. Researchers found that people with four of the five conditions (all except rheumatoid arthritis) who had at least one periodontal disease treatment had lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations within four years of the treatment compared with people who weren't treated.
The exact process and route that gum disease takes to these other organs is a subject of ongoing study.

While the medical researchers are working on the macrolevel problems of gum disease, we can embrace the solid evidence exists that preventing gum disease helps maintain a healthy set of teeth and gums. That's reason enough to practice good oral hygiene:

  • Brush at least twice a day.
  • Floss at least once a day. 
  • Visit a dentist at least twice a year for a check up and for cleaning. 
  • Follow advice for additional oral hygiene and dental care if you take medicines that affect your oral health or if you have a disease that affects oral  health, such as diabetes. 
Read the CDC's guideline "Oral Health for Older Adults" for a more comprehensive list of suggestions. 

Note: This post does not offer medical advice. Its intent is to raise awareness. Please see a licensed medical professional (such as a dentist (DDS) or a physician (MD) if you have any questions about the relationship between oral hygiene and your overall health. 


Biomarkers for Longevity and Health
HbA1C: Biomarker for Longevity and Health
Waist-Hip Ratio: Biomarker for Longevity and Health


  1. I need to make my husband read this 100 times. haha

    1. Of course, I've flossed my teeth 4 times in the 24 hours since posting this. Do not look up Google images for gum disease. Do. Not. Do. It.

  2. I have been in dental hell with a root canal retreat, and implant and now an abscess with another extraction and I do all the points you mention, I floss twice a day, and have none of the diseases you mentioned. I think I just entered a portal to dental hell!

    1. I am so sorry that you have so much dental work going on. It's super unfun. All my best to you to get on the other side of all that really soon.

  3. It takes a lot of work and dedication, but the rewards are so great! More time using floss and the rubber tip means less time listening to that drill!

    1. I need to remember your advice when it's late at night, and I'm telling myself that I'm too tired to floss.