Don't let this cool turquoise and magenta image of a colony of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans fool you. This bacterium, one of the thousands of different types of found in the mouth, can be of the main culprits in gum disease. As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, a growing body of research shows gum disease may affect your overall health in a number of ways:
Though the research is still in its early stages, there is mounting evidence of a link between gum disease (periodontitis) and overall health, including an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and maybe even pre-term birth.
For instance, a 2008 consensus report in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology concluded that periodontitis — in which the tissues surrounding the teeth are inflamed and infected, leading to progressive bone loss and ultimately loss of teeth — "may contribute to cardiovascular events and stroke in susceptible subjects."