by Kimberly Allen, RN
For several years now, members of both the medical and dental professions have believed that your oral health can significantly impact your overall health. Recently there have been several studies showing a link between periodontal disease and numerous other diseases. In fact, people with periodontal disease are not only twice as likely to develop heart disease, they are also over ten and a half times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Other studies have indicated that men with periodontal disease chances of suffering a stroke are 57% higher than normal. The International Federation of Diabetes states that one of the best ways to maintain your blood sugar is to maintain your oral health. Another study also indicated that men with periodontal disease have a 63% higher chance of developing pancreatic cancer than men that don’t have periodontal disease. There has also been a link between premature and/or low birth weight babies in pregnant women with periodontal disease.
Periodontal diseases are conditions that affect your gums and the bone surrounding your teeth including gingivitis. Your mouth is loaded with bacteria, most of which are considered “normal flora” and harmless, and regular dental hygiene, brushing and flossing daily, usually keeps them under control. However, when your gums become inflamed, or you have cavities or other infections in your mouth when you brush your teeth the bacteria and other germs gets into your bloodstream and then they attach to the fatty acids circulating in your blood building up in your arteries. They also assist in the formation of clots. This can lead to endocarditis, an infection of the lining of the heart, as well as coronary artery disease and stroke.
There has also been a lot of research linking periodontal disease and diabetes. Periodontal disease, like other infections, causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate and if you are already a diabetic this can make it much more difficult to maintain control of your blood sugar levels. Since diabetics are more prone to infections maintaining good oral health can help you maintain your blood glucose levels. Its also important to note that diabetics are more prone to tooth loss then non diabetics.
Recently there has been increasing research indicating that periodontal disease also increases your risk of respiratory infections. For many years both medical and dental professionals have known that poor oral health impairs the immune system especially in seniors. Experts believe that you can inhale or aspirate the bacteria in the tiny droplets of moisture in your mouth which in turn can reproduce and multiply causing infection in the respiratory tract. People that are already suffering with COPD are at risk for pneumonia and severely impaired respiratory function.
Periodontal disease can also increase your risk for developing other diseases including cancer of the head or neck and auto immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. The bottom line is it’s important to maintain good oral health. Should you start displaying symptoms of periodontal disease like your gums bleeding when you brush your teeth, bad breath, and tooth loss you need to seek dental care more frequently than those with good oral health. Instead of getting your teeth cleaned every 6months you’ll need to have them cleaned every 3-4 months in order to remove any bacteria around your teeth in order to prevent it from reaccumulating. With proper treatment people with periodontal disease can not only improve their oral health they can significantly reduce their risk for other complications.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.