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Can Gum Disease Kill You?

Updated: May 19, 2023

We all know that our oral health is incredibly important and that we should get our biannual dental check ups but are dentists doing more than just keeping your teeth clean? Not only are they improving your quality of life but are they also preventing you from death such as from a really bad gum infection?

bleeding gums from gum disease
bleeding gums from gum disease

Table Of Contents

Can you die from periodontal disease?

It is always possible that the bacteria from your gums travels through your bloodstream and somehow get lodged in an organ, thereby causing you instant death. Possible but very unlikely, since there haven't really been any major reports about such incidences occurring.

Although gum disease may not kill you directly, it may contribute to your death indirectly. People with severe gum disease typically experience a decrease in their quality of life because a lot of them end up losing their teeth. If you lose your teeth, you won't be able to eat as well and you'll end up with a lot less nutrients. That makes you a lot more susceptible to health problems and if you already have issues, it will prevent you from recovering optimally. So yes, it can kill you indirectly.

Associated medical conditions with periodontal disease

The overall prevalence of periodontal disease affects roughly 20-50% of the general population in the world. It has been known to be associated with quite a few health conditions:

  • Cardiovascular disease - studies have shown that gum disease can cause a 19% increase in risk for heart disease, with it increasing to 44% to those above the age of 65

  • Metabolic disease - studies have shown that those with periodontal disease with diabetes had a 3.2 times the risk of mortality to heart conditions

  • Adverse pregnancy outcomes - can lead to preterm birth, preeclampsia, low birth weight, maternal infections.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis - apparently gum issues are very prevalent in this group. Those with RA had a very high prevalance of alveolar bone destruction.

  • Respiratory disease - periodontal disease is a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Chronic kidney disease - individuals with CKD were 30-60% more likely to develop moderate periodontitis

  • Cancers - the risk for tongue cancer increases 5.23x with each millimeter of bone loss from periodontitis

  • Impairment of cognitive function - geriatric populations experience a decline in cognitive abilities, which leads to a decline in oral hygiene.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease

All of those medical conditions don't sound very good. How do you know if you have gum disease? Well here are a couple of symptoms. They are either associated with gingivitis or periodontitis.

  • Gingivitis is gum inflammation and also the very first stage of gum disease.

  • Periodontitis is inflammation of the periodontium, which includes the bone and other structures that surround and support the teeth. The bone inflammation causes alveolar bone loss. This is the advanced stage of the disease.

Red swollen gums

You may notice your gums a very red color. They may even look swollen or poofy looking. The gums are not healthy because they should be pink and very taut looking. The gums are swollen because they are engorged and filled with bacteria.

Bleeding gums

Healthy gums don't bleed, especially not from just touching them. They also don't bleed if you floss them. If your gums are bleeding very easily just from flossing or brushing, then you have inflammation going on. You are at the very least at the first stage of gum disease, gingivitis. You may even notice a metallic taste in your mouth sometimes.

bleeding gums

If your gums look like the above, we're not sure if you should be kissing people with bleeding gums until you get it checked out.

Receding gums

The advanced stages can cause your gums to recede or shrink. You will notice the root surface of the teeth will be exposed. The areas with recession will be very sensitive to temperature such as cold. Unfortunately your gums will not grow back, if you want you can try a gum graft with the periodontist or gum specialist.

receding gums

The enamel is the white part but towards the gum line do you see the more yellow tooth structure? That is the root surface and is very sensitive. It is not suppose to be exposed!

Loose teeth

End stage periodontitis will usually lead to loose teeth. This is because the disease causes your bone surrounding the teeth to be very inflamed. Once inflamed, you will start losing bone. If you lose enough bone, the teeth will start getting loose. Once that happens, there is no way to tighten them back up unfortunately.

periodontitis on x ray
periodontitis on x ray

This is a panoramic x ray showing periodontitis. Do you see how some of the teeth aren't even embedded in the bone anymore? They are literally floating around in the mouth. If that isn't loose, then I don't know what is. I'll show you what teeth in healthy bone looks like, it should be mostly embedded.

x-ray of healthy bone around teeth

Bad breath

You may notice that your breath is starting to smell. You've been getting comments from other people and it isn't the pleasant kind. You've been brushing your teeth and using mouth wash more often but it doesn't seem to help. This happens because the bacteria is usually protected by the hard tartar on your teeth. You're unable to remove them yourself so you do need to see a dental professional. If you are at this stage, you may need to getting your teeth cleaned more than just every 6 months.

Pain or sensitivity

Your teeth may feel painful at times and it will definitely be sensitive. The sensitivity will most likely be associated with the receding gums. They could also be sensitive because they are loose. If your teeth are wobbly every time you bite down on something, of course they would be painful or sensitive.

How can I prevent gum disease?

The good news is that you can prevent it from happening. You definitely need to do your part by brushing and flossing twice a day. You can use a mouth rinse as well since it can only help. You have to keep up on your oral hygiene 365 days a year.

Then there are 2 days of the year where you should check in with your dentist in long island city for your exam, x rays, and teeth cleaning. The dental cleaning will remove all of the plaque, tartar, and calculus from your teeth. As long as you get that done twice a year, you shouldn't ever progress to periodontitis. If you did, you would need a deep teeth cleaning.

The only way to get that removed is by seeing a dentist. Brushing harder won't get it off! So what are you waiting for? Get brushing or make an appointment for a dental check up.

We're conveniently located at 1311 Jackson Ave, Long Island City NY 11101. 718-358-3307


David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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