Nearly half of the U.S. adult population has some form of gum disease. Employers should be concerned, as three of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers – high blood pressure, heart attack and diabetes – are linked to gum disease. And when complications cause employees to be absent from work, this also is costly.

Gum disease may start in your mouth, but it often points to other serious health concerns that you shouldn’t ignore. Nearly half of the U.S. adult population has some form of periodontal (gum) disease (1), a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease can range from simple inflammation (gingivitis) to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone, called periodontitis.

Bacteria in the mouth form plaque (a sticky film) on your teeth. When plaque is not removed with regular brushing and flossing, it causes inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis, the mildest stage of gum disease, can usually be reversed with good oral health habits and regular cleanings. If not reversed, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis – the most serious stage of gum disease –that causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected. If not treated, the supporting bones, gums and tissues are destroyed, which means the teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

If ignored, the bacteria and inflammation can potentially lead to more serious health issues. Researchers found that people with gum disease were more likely to develop heart disease or have high blood sugar (2). Additionally, it is suggested that bacteria can travel into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases, like pneumonia (3). Regular brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist are the best ways to protect your teeth, gums and overall health.

Gum disease should be a concern for employers, too. Three of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers – high blood pressure, heart attack and diabetes – are linked to gum disease. And when complications cause employees to be absent from work, this also is costly. Productivity losses linked to employees who miss work cost employers $225.8 billion –that’s $1,685 per employee – each year (4).

Nearly all stages of gum disease are preventable, which means it is important to be aware of the risks and take preventive action early. Understanding your risk is the first step in preventing it.

  • Smoking – Tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors associated with gum disease, and it can lower the chances for successful treatment.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
  • Medications – Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can reduce the flow of saliva. Without enough saliva, the mouth is more susceptible to infections. Some medications can cause gum tissue to overgrow, which makes it hard to keep teeth and gums clean.
  • Pregnancy – Approximately 40 percent of pregnant women have some form of gum disease due to hormonal changes throughout the body
  • Other illnesses and their treatments – Some diseases, such as AIDS, cancer and their treatments, can also have a negative impact on gum health.
    Genetic susceptibility – Some people have a higher risk of gum disease because of genetic factors.

For more information on gum disease and other oral health topics, visit our Delta Dental of Indiana web site.


ABOUT DELTA DENTAL: As the state’s largest dental benefits carrier, Delta Dental of Indiana offers a full range of individual and group dental plans for more than 660,000 people. Through education, philanthropy and advocacy, Delta Dental of Indiana is bringing oral health within reach for Indiana children and adults.

General source: “Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

1 “CDC: Half of American Adults Have Periodontal Disease | Perio.org.” American Academy of Periodontology. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

2 “Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

3 “Gum Disease and Other Systemic Diseases | Perio.org.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

4 “Healthy Workforce.” Business Pulse. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.