Oral Health and Body Health: The Connection

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Orally-related disease is the most rampant chronic infectious disease across the globe, beating out the everyday head cold. Samplings and studies performed in the United States indicate that more than 50 percent of adult Americans have gingivitis and about 30% have periodontitis.

Periodontal disease is a microbial infection that affects the gums and bone anchoring your teeth. Periodontal disease can occur in a single tooth or a lot of your teeth. Periodontal disease has its origin when the bacteria and plaque (that sticky, colorless bio-film that constantly forms on your teeth) cause the gums to become inflamed.

This might seem like something out of science fiction, however, the infectious germs in your gums can migrate all over your entire body showing up in vulnerable areas of the body like the heart, kidneys, lungs and the digestive organs. The bottom line is that periodontal disease should be considered a bigger risk factor to your health than previously judged. So, to maintain your overall health, do something now about gum disease.

In addition to gum disease’s inflammatory effect on your body, it can also hinder any medicine you are receiving for any medical condition.

Berrien Dental Gum Disease MitchThe Signposts of Periodontal Disease:
  • Blood on your toothbrush after brushing your teeth
  • Blood on your floss after flossing your teeth
  • Aching, shiny red or puffy gum tissue
  • Wobbly and/or loose teeth
  • Gum tissue pulling back from teeth
  • Never-ending sour breath (halitosis)
  • Pus or white film between the teeth
  • Discomfort when you chew or bite on something
  • A change in how your teeth come together
  • New spaces between your teeth
  • Food getting lodged up in your gums
Berrien Dental Periodontal Illustration 4Dentists Are Now Advise Saying, “Ahhh” To Prevent Heart Disease

By having regular cleanings and periodontal therapy to treat your gum disease, you are decreasing your chances for developing cardiovascular problems.

It’s been discovered that the way that gum disease affects your heart is that periodontal disease launches a chain of chemical events that cause inflammation, or swelling, in the body’s vital systems. Should the heart and arteries become swollen, blood clots can form, putting you at danger for heart attack or stroke. If that weren’t bad enough, bacteria originating from the mouth might also adhere to the inner lining of the heart, which may cause infective endocarditis.

For the past decade, several studies have concluded that there is a definite association between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease. One consequence of unchecked periodontal disease is the loss of teeth. After the gums have been diseased long-term, your teeth will fall out.

Researchers in Finland looked at the correlation between the number of missing teeth in a person and the rate of diagnosed heart disease in the group. They looked at almost 1500 men between the ages of 45 and 64. Their research revealed that those men with a higher number of missing teeth from chronic periodontal disease also had a higher incidence of heart disease. Their conclusions? Gum disease raises the danger of heart attack by as much as 25 percent. It increases the risk of having a stroke by 1000%.

Gum Disease Likely To Bring On Diabetes

Although diabetics are more likely to have diabetes, we couldn’t prove which one was a result of the other. Twenty years ago, scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health investigated over 9,000 people who showed no symptoms of diabetes. Eventually, 817 of those individuals developed diabetes. What they discovered was if a person had advanced periodontal disease, they had twice the odds of suffering from diabetes within the following two decades, even when age, smoking, obesity and diet were figured in to the equation.

According to Dr. Demmer, associate research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, “Over twenty years of observing, it becomes obvious that participants who had oral infections (gum disease had a 200% rise in their odds of contracting Type 2 diabetes sometime later in life when we compare them to those without periodontitis.”

Periodontal Disease Get’s Into Your Lungs

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with chronic periodontal disease are most often affected by pneumonia. Logically, then, treating gum disease is the first step to lowering your odds of getting pneumonia again this year.

What This All Means To Dentists

Yesterday, dental professionals vowed to save your teeth with regular cleanings. In the future, our attention must expand beyond the mouth. If you have an inflammatory condition like periodontal disease, you’re in danger of developing more serious systemic problems, whether it’s heart problems, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis. In the future, as we care for your teeth, we’re not just saving your teeth, which in itself is a sound goal, we might just be saving your life as well.

Dr. Christy or Dr. Balsis conclude, “It’s not enough anymore to just be aware of suspicious spots in the gum tissue. Instead, attacking gum disease aggressively will be a top priority for maintaining, and improving our patients’ overall health and their enjoyment of life. In fact, it will mean that if our patients’ teeth and gums are not healthy, we can assume that they are not healthy overall.”