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Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection and inflammation of the gum tissue caused by the excess buildup of tartar and bacteria. Over time, the gum tissue can pull back from the teeth, creating pockets for bacteria to grow in. The infection can also cause a loss of material in the bones that anchor your teeth into your jaw. The infection can also lead to systemic inflammation, which taxes your immune system.

New research has also found that advanced gum disease can have a serious impact on other medical conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.

People with diabetes or otherwise uncontrolled blood sugar can sometimes have a hard time fighting infection. This makes it easier for bacteria to spread through the affected area in the gums.

The relationship between gum disease, heart disease and stroke is not as well understood. Several studies conducted by the American Heart Association have found that people with heart disease have a higher instance of gum disease. This might also be related to other lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use that also has a negative impact on overall health.

Research conducted by the American Cancer Society found that kidney and pancreatic cancer as well as certain types of blood cancers occurred more often in middle-aged men with gum disease.

Research continues to explore the relationship between gum disease, systemic inflammation and overall health. The easiest way to reduce your chances of developing gum disease is with an effective oral hygiene regimen based on brushing and flossing twice a day as well as visiting your dentist for your regular dental checkup.