Dentist Questions Gum Disease

Can a gum infection pass to other parts of the body?

I recently read in an article that certain infections that start from the gums can spread to the other parts of the body. What are the types of bacterial infections starting in the mouth that spread to the throat, lungs and other parts of the body? Is there any way to identify these infections early?

19 Answers

If you have untreated gum disease, you may have about a 20% INCREASED risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. Bacteria and toxins from untreated gum disease may travel to the heart and cause inflammation. Early detection is key. You should be seeing a dentist AT LEAST every six months or more frequently if you have gum disease.
There have been over 200 (some say over 300) different species of bacteria found living in our mouths. Some of these germs are "good germs" and contribute to our healthy biome (like the healthy "gut bacteria" that you may have heard about). Some of these germs are harmful germs, and they contribute to cavities, gum disease, and other oral infections. All of these germs can and do spread into throat-esophagus-stomach-intestines, and trachea-lungs. They can also get into bloodstream via your gingival sulcus (space between gums and teeth, where floss is used to get those germs out and where popcorn kernels tend to lodge). The more compromised your immune system, or the more hyperactive your inflammatory body response is to germs, the higher the risk of complications and symptoms. Some oral infections and oral cancers can be caught by your dentist, with regular visits (especially if you are experiencing mouth soreness, etc). Others are silent. My suggestion: see your dentist for routine checkups. Also might want to see if your dentist can get a saliva sample from you, to send to a lab to get Oral HPV virus screening. This infection is on the rise in North America, especially in young men, and can be spread very easily.
Yes, especially the genitals.
The human mouth breeds more germs than any other place on earth. The germs causing gum infections do get into your blood stream and travel throughout your body. Healthy gums is essential to good overall health.
It is incredibly difficult to predict the types of gum infections that can pass to the body. Large infections in the oral invironmemt can enter the blood stream and cause severe infections throughout the body such as sepsis and bacterial endocarditis in the heat. Oral bacteria can settle in the joints leading to failure of artificial joints. Oral bacteria can also cause cellulitis and severe selling. In diabetics oral infections alter blood sugar levels. The best way is not to try to identify early but is to try to prevent through normal recall and care.
Any tooth or gum infection if not treated can spread to the body. Regular dental check ups will prevent all that.
Yes, if it reaches the blood stream, it can pass to anywhere.
That is an excellent question. There are many strains of bacteria that live in the mouth. The question is really one of balance. In a healthy mouth, the bacterial counts are low. The gum are healthy because the body's natural immune system is able to keep thing in check.
When gum disease sets in, the bacteria begin to get out of balance. The immune system kicks in to do what it's "programmed" to do, i.e. dilate capillaries to deliver more blood and white blood cells to the area yo fight the infection. At this point, the bacteria can get into the blood stream and colonize elsewhere in the body, e.g. leaky or weak heart valves, prosthetic joints, etc.
Routine dental vists, cleanings, and meticulous homecare can help to prevent this from becoming an issue.
Any infection in the body can spread elsewhere. if untreated. Be sure to treat any known infections without delay to avoid the spread of any infections and/or inflammations.
Rather than trying to identify "these infections early", let's mention how to prevent them. Simply, brush your teeth for at least 3 minutes twice a day, and floss nightly before bed. Use an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, and use it properly. This will break up plaque (which is basically organized bacteria) before it has a chance to cause infections and do damage.
Gum infections are called gingivitis. There are also intections from teeth abscesses that can create a fistula in the gums. The infection from the tooth creaties an escape pathway in the bone. Exudate or pus can be extruded from the fistula. This usually indicates the need for a root canal to sterilize the tooth which is the source of the infection. If the infection erodes a large area of bone then the tooth may require extraction. An infection in the bone resulting from an infected tooth will not resolve with antibiotics alone.
Major bone infections can lead to serious infections in other areas such as chest wall or heart. These can be life threatening.
If you think you have an infection in your mouth he sure to see your dentist right away.
This is a great question. We have recently learned a lot about the link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. Although much is yet to be learned, we have seen that patients with periodontal disease are at a much greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Plaque, or biofilm is believed to behave in a similar way to arterial plaque that occurs in arteriosclerosis. This is a great example of how good oral health is a great indicator of great overall health.
There is mounting evidence that oral infections can spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes the patient doesn't even realize they have periodontal infections. The best way to prevent this from happening is to have regular exams and cleanings at your dentist's office.
A chronic gum infection does not directly pass to the throat, lungs, etc. What can happen is that your immune system gets so distracted trying to fight the gum infection that it makes a person more susceptible to other infections. Also it has been shown that the chronic inflammatory mediators are found in other parts of the body and COULD contribute to heart disease. It is important to have good gingival health so your immune system can remain strong and fight off all other opportunistic infections.

Justin W. Ruffner, DDS
Yes, gum infection can spread to other parts of the body, since there are arteries that supply the blood to the gum, the infection can spread to other parts of the body through blood supply. The only way to prevent that is personal hygiene, regular cleaning and check ups and making sure that you have a healthy gum.
Bacteria from gum disease have been found in clogged coronary arteries as well as in amyloid deposits in the brains of those who died from Alzheimer's disease. Persons with gum disease also have higher risks of pancreatic cancer and also of premature births if they are pregnant. Oral DNA testing is simple, economical, and can test for abnormal bacterial balances in the mouth as well as identify genetic characteristics that would make a person more likely to succumb to diseases of oral origin.

Michael D Stern DDS
You ask a question, but that fills a textbook called oral pathology. It is a separate course in Dental School that deals with the microbiology and pathogenic processes of bacteria and syndromes associated with diseases of the mouth. So we are talking about a vast degree of potential bacteria that have complicated long names and are most difficult to isolate, except by a specialized laboratory.
Just be aware that the best method to avoid any problems with infection associated with the mouth is to maintain routine checkups with your dentist at six-month intervals. This advice is timeless and necessary to avoid problems as our diet of refined sugar that tends to be in everything we eat is predominantly responsible for being the root cause of dental problems.