The Mouth-Body Connection
Research has recently proven what dentists have long suspected: that there is a strong connection between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is inflammation of the gums due to the presence of disease-causing bacteria as well as infection below the gum line. Both can spread throughout the body and lead to many different health issues, which is why it is so important to maintain good oral hygiene at home, and to ensure you work with your periodontist to reduce the progression of periodontal disease through treatment.
Periodontal Disease and Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious, incurable disease that is caused by too much sugar (or glucose) in the blood. Type II diabetes occurs when the body no longer regulates insulin levels, allowing the glucose to stay in the blood. Type I diabetes occurs when the body can't produce insulin on its own.
Between 12 and 14 million Americans are affected by diabetes, which can also lead to further health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop periodontal disease, especially those who do not manage their condition as well as they should.
This connection between periodontal disease and diabetes can happen for a few different reasons. Those who have the disease are more susceptible to all sorts of infections, including those of the gum tissue. Diabetes reduces the body's overall resistance to infection as well. Blood vessels also tend to thicken in diabetics, making it more difficult for the body to get necessary nutrients and to remove waste properly. If harmful waste is left in the mouth, it will weaken gum tissue, leading to more problems and infections.
Smoking as well as tobacco use is extremely destructive to any person's oral - and overall - health, but it is even more harmful to those with diabetes. Those with diabetes who smoke and are over 40 years old are 20 times more likely to develop periodontal disease.
Regardless of your health condition, it is crucial for everyone to brush and floss daily and visit their dentist regularly. When teeth are left uncared for, that harmful bacteria goes to work ingesting the excess sugar in the mouth and colonizing beneath the gum line, creating inflammation and periodontal disease.
Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease, and Stroke
When fatty proteins as well as plaque build up along the walls of your arteries, you are on your way to developing coronary heart disease. This is a dangerous disease, narrowing your arteries and constricting blood flow. This means oxygen isn't traveling to the heart as well as it should, resulting in chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart attacks.
The link between heart disease and periodontal disease is so strong, that those with oral conditions are almost twice as likely to suffer from heart disease than those with good oral health. Periodontal disease was also proven to worsen existing heart conditions, and patients with periodontal disease are more likely to suffer from a stroke.
A cause of this connection between heart disease and periodontal disease is bacteria entering the patient's bloodstream. As there are many different kinds of periodontal bacteria, it is hard for the body to fight them all off. Once some have made it into the bloodstream, they attach to the fatty plaques in the arteries of the heart, leading to clot formation and heart attack or stroke.
The leading cause of death in the United States in both women and men is coronary heart disease. Ensuring you care for your body and practice good oral hygiene at home is crucial, as is ensuring you obtain treatment for periodontal problems.
Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease
Women who are pregnant who also have periodontal disease are exposing their unborn child to many risks and complications.
There are many reasons that periodontal disease can affect pregnant women. An increase in prostaglandin in mothers with bad periodontal disease can cause premature labor and a low-birth weight baby. Periodontal disease also increases CRP, as stated before, which amplifies inflammation in the body. An increase of CRP has also been linked to premature births.
In addition, the bacteria that attaches itself underneath the gum line in a diseased mouth can actualy come loose and travel through the bloodstream, affecting other parts of the patient's body. When this happens in pregnant women, it has been found that the bacteria can colonize in the mammary glands and coronary arteries.
Pregnancy causes many changes in hormones, some of which increase the chance of inflammation in the body. Oral diseases have actually been linked to preeclampsia (low birth weight) as well as premature births. This is why it is crucial to you and your unborn baby to treat existing periodontal problems to help lower the risk that both mother and child are affected by periodontal disease-related complications.
Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease
When someone with a respiratory disease sneezes or coughs, they spread their infection through fine droplets, spreading it throughout the air. These droplets can be inhaled into the lungs of another person, and the germs contained can multiply, causing infection and worsening existing lung conditions.
When bacteria grows in the oral cavity, it can travel into the lungs, causing respiratory issues like pneumonia. This risk is, of course, heightened in patients with periodontal disease, which has had a role in contracting bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a respiratory condition that blocks a patient's airways, and is almost always caused by smoking. This has also been proven to worsen in patients with periodontal disease. Inflammation of the oral tissue has also played a role in respiratory issues. The bacteria causing inflammation can travel to the lungs, inflaming the lining of the lungs and limiting the amount of air that can be passed freely in and out of the body.
Patients who experience respiratory problems almost always have low immunity, which means bacteria has an easier time growing in their bodies, including underneath their gums, without the body's immune system kicking in. This means it will most likely always progress and worsen.
If you have been diagnosed with any type of respiratory disease or periodontal disease, make sure you contact your physician and periodontist to plan the best course of treatment for both conditions before further complications arise.
Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bone tissue begins to thin, bringing on a loss of bone density. It typically affects older patients, and occurs when the body no longer forms enough new bone or when it ends up absorbing too much old bone. Patients who suffer from osteoporosis must take greater care in their day to day activities, as the condition means they are at an increased risk of bone fractures.
As periodontal disease can lead to bone loss, the link between these two has been carefully studied. Research found that women with periodontal disease were more likely to have bone loss in the jaw, which in turn leads to tooth loss. Ten years of studies proved that patients who suffered from osteoporosis could actually reduce their risk of tooth and bone loss by simply getting their periodontal disease treated and under control.
When a drop in estrogen occurs in a person's body, it means the progression of bone loss is sped up, and the rate of loss of connective tissues and fibers that keep the teeth stable begins. This causes tooth loss.
Another complication of osteoporosis is low mineral bone density. Inflammation from periodontal disease will weaken bone, making them more prone to breaking down. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis as well as periodontal disease, speak with your doctor and periodontist to figure out the right course of treatment for you.