Millions of Americans spend countless hours exercising, dieting and running to the pharmacy to pick up prescription medications, all in an effort to keep their body healthy and in good shape. But many don’t realize that spending just a few more minutes each day nurturing a healthy mouth may be their biggest ally in the fight against disease. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between oral health and overall health as researchers have linked periodontal disease to quite a few other health issues over the last few decades.
Although researchers are not sure as to the precise cause and effect, they have established a direct correlation between periodontal gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and premature birth. Although the evidence isn’t yet clear, experts say that people with advanced gum illnesses are almost twice as likely to have heart disease than patients without periodontitis. Some experts have even ventured to say that poor oral health is as good an indicator in predicting heart related illness as a patient’s cholesterol levels. Even if periodontitis isn’t the actual “cause” of heart disease and other related illnesses, the correlation made between the two is certainly monumental.
Most people have a hard time seeing the connection between oral health and overall health. It is a topic of discussion that needs to be brought to the forefront and needs greater awareness. Plaque, which is a thin layer of bacteria, naturally grows on teeth and can build up until it mineralizes into what is known as calculus or tartar, and may eventually lead to gingivitis. When this leads to more severe infection, the inflamed gums recede from the teeth allowing bacteria to reach and destroy the supporting bone. Experts aren’t sure exactly how this process then negatively affects the rest of your body, but many believe that oral bacteria can then seep into the bloodstream causing injury to other organs.
Studies have shown that people with elevated blood levels of specific disease-causing bacteria in the mouth were more likely to have atherosclerosis in the carotid artery, which can lead to stroke. Another theory is that the bacteria in the mouth can stick to the fatty plaques in the bloodstream, which can also contribute to arterial blockages. Inflammation also often occurs in cases of periodontal infection. Since inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism against bacteria and infection, it is believed that as the oral bacteria moves through your body, they may trigger additional blood cells in your body to swell.
If you are at risk for heart disease or any serious illness, it is recommended that you follow your doctor’s council on prevention and care. Better oral care should be taken just as seriously. Speak to your dental professional about improved brushing and flossing techniques, and ask if you are at risk for more advanced gum disease. Prevention of periodontitis can help alleviate the need for additional trips to the dentist for deep cleanings (scaling) or even the need for oral surgery. Take better care of your mouth and your mouth will take better care of you.
For more information about periodontal care, contact Gentle Dental in Queens at 718-461-0100.