Infections in the mouth can play havoc elsewhere in the body. For a long time it was thought that bacteria was the factor that linked periodontal disease to other infections in the body; however, more recent research demonstrates that inflammation may link periodontal disease to other chronic conditions.
Research has shown, and experts agree, that there is an association between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.
When an inflammatory condition is suspected or diagnosed, it is important to consult with both a general physician and a dental health professional, such as a periodontist. Sometimes the only way to detect periodontal diseases is through a periodontal evaluation. A periodontal evaluation may be especially important if you:
Pancreatic Cancer and Heart Disease
- Have a high risk for periodontal diseases. Take the AAP risk assessment test.
- Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis, or are thinking of becoming pregnant.
- Have a family member with periodontal disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member.
- Have a sore or irritation in your mouth that does not get better within two weeks.
Recent studies have linked good oral hygiene with good overall health. Having a healthy mouth can reduce the risk for many serious diseases, including heart disease and pancreatic cancer. The inflammation that is caused by gingivitis and periodontal disease has been linked to these diseases. Bacteria that thrives in the mouth can travel to other parts of the body and can cause infection or worsen existing infections in many areas, including the lungs and joints.
Keeping your gums healthy not only prevents gingivitis and periodontal disease, but it can also help improve your memory, according to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. In a study done by the journal, adults who had gingivitis performed worse than those who didn’t on tests of memory and cognitive skills. They were more likely to perform poorly on tests of delayed verbal recall and subtraction – two skills we use everyday!
Diabetes can make you less able to fight off infection, which includes infections of the gums like periodontal disease. And, some experts have linked uncontrolled diabetes with gum disease, suggesting that untreated periodontal disease may make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Having a healthy mouth will help you protect your overall health by making it easier to control and maintain your diabetes.
Preterm Delivery and Low-Birth-Weight Babies
Some research suggests a link between gingivitis and preterm, low-birth-weight infants. With 1 in 8 babies born premature, prevention is the key! Maintaining good oral health may help prevent premature delivery. See your dentist as part of your prenatal care. He or she will give you good tips and insight into oral health and a healthy pregnancy.
You may have seen stories in the news about the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, those aren’t the only health conditions that are related to periodontal disease. Research has shown that having periodontal disease can put you at risk for a few surprising conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and even kidney disease.
Over 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic, inflammatory disease of the joints that can lead to longterm joint damage. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology uncovered yet another potential side effect of RA; researchers discovered that patients with RA are eight times more likely to have periodontal disease than those without RA. However, the research indicates that poor oral hygiene alone did not account for the connection between RA and gum disease, which means that other factors play a role as well. Both RA and gum disease are systemic inflammatory disorders which may explain the connection between the two.
Men are especially at risk for developing certain cancers if they have periodontal disease. Research published in The Lancet Oncology found that men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums. In fact, researchers discovered that men with periodontal disease are 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers.
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests that toothless adults may be more likely to have chronic kidney disease than adults with all of their teeth. Untreated periodontal disease can lead to bone loss around teeth, which can then cause teeth to loosen and fall out. Periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults. In the study, the lack of teeth was found to be significantly associated with chronic kidney disease. The two diseases may be connected by chronic inflammation, as both are considered inflammatory conditions.
To help protect yourself from these health conditions, including periodontal disease, make sure to brush your teeth twice each day, floss at least once each day, and see a dental professional for cleanings twice each year. If periodontal disease develops, a consultation with a dentist or periodontist may lead to effective treatment. The key to a healthy body may start with a healthy mouth!