Is your mouth literally making you sick? Possibly. There is a strong relationship between oral health and your overall body health. In fact, studies continue to show that oral health, specifically periodontal (gum) disease, is highly related to many other diseases throughout the body.
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is defined as an inflammatory disease of the gums, where a specific bacteria triggers inflammation, bleeding, and loss of gum tissue and bone. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, then you probably have some degree of periodontal disease. These bacteria are not only connected to inflammation in the mouth and body, but they have been shown to cause many diseases.
Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease is the most commonly discussed systemic disease that is linked to gum disease. The bacteria found in gum disease have been found in the arteries and heart fluids of people with heart disease. Additionally, there is a link between the inflammatory response in gum disease and the increase buildup of plaque in a person’s arteries. Many studies show the treatment of gum disease lowers ones risk of heart disease.
Cerebrovascular Accidents (Strokes) happen when a blood clot develops somewhere in the body and travels to the brain causing a lack of oxygen to the brain. When gum disease is present, the recurrent bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, along with inflammatory cells, and greatly increase the possibility of a stroke. The greater the periodontal disease, the greater the risk for stroke.
Diabetes has a bi-directional relationship with gum disease. Scientists have found when a patient has uncontrolled blood sugar, their gums generally are extremely inflamed and bleed very easily. Likewise, a patient with untreated gum disease, will have difficulty controlling their blood sugar.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and can be very painful. Once again, there is bi-directional link with the inflammatory response from RA and gum disease, where each disease can actually worsen the other.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There is continued research towards the progression and treatment of this disease. Scientists have found large amounts of the same bacteria in periodontal disease as in the brain of Alzheimer victims.
Cancer-Correlations have been made between pancreatic cancer and oral cavity health. Certain bacteria is present in high amounts in saliva of people with pancreatic cancer. Additionally, those with periodontal disease are 30% more likely to develop cancers of the blood and prostate.
*Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Diabetes are the leading causes of death in the United States, and ALL have been linked to disease of the oral cavity.
*Patients with periodontal disease are 35% more likely to develop coronary artery disease.
*Patients who brush less than 2 times a day are at a higher risk of suffering a cardiac episode.
*Men with periodontal disease are 30% more likely to develop cancers of blood.
*Those with severe periodontal disease are 4.5 times more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke.
*The loss of more than half of adult teeth by age 60 (from gum disease), correlates with a 2.6 times higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
*Diabetic patients with severe periodontal disease, are at a 3.2-fold increased risk of diabetic nephropathy.
There are several simple ways of preventing gum disease, which can help reduce the likelihood of developing a systemic disease.
*Brush twice a day for two minutes
*Visit your dentist twice a year for detection and treatment of gum disease.
*Eat a balanced diet.
The connection between oral health and body health is undeniable. Gum disease can increase risk of systemic disease, as well as make the diseases harder to treat. Improving oral health can lead to overall wellness, decreased medical bills, and extended years and quality of life.
For more information on the relationship between gum disease and systemic diseases: