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Oral Health and Body Health: The Connection

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Periodontal disease, often called gum disease, is a chronic infection associated with about 500 different kinds of bacteria in your mouth that can also infect your body’s vital organs.

According to published statistics, over 60,000,000 people in the U.S.A. exhibit signs of periodontal (gum) disease, a slowly-developing bacterial infection affecting gum tissue and even the bone that anchors the teeth. As gum disease continues unchecked, enzymes excreted by the bacteria slowly destroy the gum tissue. Soon, your gum tissues are breached and bacteria are free to enter your body’s circulatory system. These dangerous invaders trigger an inflammatory reaction all over your body. For “at risk” patients, this new assault might be the element with a cumulative effect on their pre-existing medical conditions.

Research has also shown treatment for various health conditions like heart problems, pulmonary disease such as emphysema or COPD, diabetes, orthopedic replacement, kidney failure, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and/or pregnancy could be hindered by germs from periodontal disease.

Workman Dental Artistry Gum Disease MitchThe Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease:

  • Bleeding gums after brushing your teeth
  • Gums bleeding after flossing
  • Aching, shiny red or puffy gum tissue
  • Wobbly and/or loose teeth
  • Tooth roots becoming exposed
  • Never-ending offensive breath (halitosis)
  • Pus or white film around the base of the teeth
  • Pain when biting down or chewing
  • Noticeable changes in your bite
  • New spaces between your teeth
  • Food getting lodged up in your gums

Workman Dental Artistry Periodontal Illustration 1

Diabetes Connected To Periodontal Infection

Although adults with diabetes are known to be at risk for gum disease, we couldn’t prove which one was a result of the other. In 1993, researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health reviewed over 9,000 individuals who were not diabetics. By the end of the study, over 800 of of the 9,000 tested positive for diabetes. What they discovered was if a participant had advanced periodontal disease, they had double the chances of becoming a diabetic within the following two decades, even if other risk factors like smoking, obesity, age and an unhealthy diet were included.

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, we can see that participants who had oral infections (gum disease were twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes within 20 years if compared to people who did not start out with periodontal disease.”

Dr. Workman Is Now Advising You To Make a Dental Hygiene Appointment To Prevent Heart Disease 

By allowing Dr. Workman to guard against gum disease, you are decreasing your chances for developing heart attack and heart failure.

It’s been discovered that the way that gum disease affects your heart is that periodontal disease may trigger a series of chemical events that encourage an inflammatory response across the entire body. If the arteries become inflamed and constricted, it can result in blood clots, putting you at danger for heart attack or stroke. If that weren’t bad enough, the oral bacteria may also stick to the inner lining of the heart, initiating infective endocarditis.

For the past decade, several studies have concluded that there is a strong link between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease. One inevitability of unchecked periodontal disease is the loss of teeth. After the gums have been diseased long-term, your teeth can wiggle out.

Finnish researchers began to investigate the connection 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. The researchers discovered that those men with a higher number of missing teeth from ongoing gum disease also had a greater likelihood of having heart disease. Their conclusions? Gum disease raises the danger of heart attack by as much as 25 percent. It increases the likelihood of having a stroke by 10 times.

The Relationship Between Periodontal Disease And Pulmonary Disease

According to numerous studies, oral disease may harm your lungs. Bacteria attacking your gum tissue find their way into the saliva. The bacteria hitches a ride on the water vapor in the air you take in each time you breathe. This fine mist of bacteria and moisture may be aspirated into the lungs, potentially causing pulmonary infection and pneumonia. This can be life-threatening for the aged or those who are dealing with a low immunity level, or family and loved ones who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

What This All Means To Dentists

In the past, dentists committed to saving your teeth by keeping them healthy. Today, there is much more to be taken into consideration. If you have an inflammatory condition like periodontal disease, you are more at risk for more serious systemic problems, whether it’s heart problems, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis. Today, as we care for your teeth, we aren’t just saving your teeth, which in itself is a very good commitment, we might just be saving your life as well.

Dr. Workman concludes, “It’s not enough anymore to just be aware of suspicious spots in the gum tissue. Instead, attacking gum disease aggressively will be an important part of maintaining, and improving our patients’ overall health and their enjoyment of life. To be exact, our patients will not be totally healthy unless they are periodontally healthy.”