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Recent research has begun to mount linking the oral health to the rest of the body. Did you know that more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms?  Oral health means more than just an attractive smile. Poor oral health and untreated oral diseases and conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life. In many cases, the condition of the mouth is a direct sign of the condition of the body as a whole. This means that it is even more important to seek regular dental care as your dentist might the one to notice oral signs of systemic disease developing.

Systemic Disease With Associated Oral Symptoms

Heart Disease/Stroke – Recent research has proven a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. The research results find that the bacteria present in periodontal disease does not just stay in the mouth but can move and travel throughout the body. It is believed that the bacteria moves from brushing, flossing, or eating and causes inflammation. The process of inflammation that affects the tissues in the mouth are what causes the heart disease issues. In periodontal disease, the body goes into an inflammatory state to rid the offending bacteria but in the process they are destroying good tissues and bone. When bacteria goes mobile and travels throughout the body, this bacteria can irritate the arteries which in turn will respond by creating arterial plaques. These plaques lead to decreased or blocked blood flow which in turn can cause a heart attack.

Diabetes – Diabetic patients are unique in that their disease reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. This reduced ability can lead to an increased occurence of periodontal disease. Diabetic patients need to increase their at home dental hygiene as well as see their dentist more often to ensure they do not succumb to their disease. Diabetics may experience burning mouth syndrome and fungal infections, such as thrush and oral candidiasis. Dry mouth may also develop, causing an increased incidence of tooth decay. To prevent problems with bacterial infections in the mouth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, prescription mouth rinses, and more frequent dental cleanings.

Gastrointestinal Diseases – These diseases include Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD). The oral cavity is the portal of entry to the GI tract. In the case of GERD it is not uncommon to see tooth enamel erosion from the acids in the stomach entering the mouth and for the other diseases, the presence of regular ulcers can be a sign of colitis or Crohn’s disease. Obviously these ulcers alone would not be a diagnosis for them in absence of other symptoms.

Hematologic (Blood) Disorders – Mucosal conditions, such as glossitis, recurrent aphthae, candidal infections, and angular stomatitis may be more common in patients with anemia. Glossitis can be the first sign of a folate or vitamin B-12 deficiency. The tongue appears red, and the papillae produce a smooth appearance. Angular stomatitis is commonly caused by a candidal infection, and it has been linked to a deficiency in iron. If the anemia persists, a person may have decreased resistance to infection.

Sjogren Syndrome – This disease predominantly affects women (9 women to 1 man) and primarily affects those over age 50. Oral changes can include difficulty in swallowing and eating, changes in taste and speech, increased tooth decay, and an increased chance of infection, all due to a decrease in saliva.

HIV/AIDS – The oral symptoms include candidiasis (oral infection), Karposi’s sarcoma, increased herpes outbreaks, as well as human papilloma virus (HPV) infections.

Conclusion

The above list is by no means comprehensive, but it goes to show you how various diseases affecting different parts of the body can appear and affect the mouth. Scientific research continually furthers the evidence that the mouth is a window to your health. While your dentist may not be able to definitively diagnose any of the above diseases they can be an early communicator of the symptoms developing to give you a better chance of recovering from the effects of these diseases. Some believe that increased dental health and oral hygiene have led to an increased chance of autoimmunity to certain diseases and conditions.



Periodontal disease – is the infection and inflammation of the gums and other supporting tissues of the teeth caused by oral bacteria. While periodontal disease is considered a localized infection that affects the teeth, gums and surrounding oral tissues, it can also have dramatic negative effects on a person’s overall health. Recent research shows there is a connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Periodontal inflammation has been shown to be  associated with inflammation in the brain that increases the risk for cognitive dysfunctions linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the 6th leading cause of death in America today. Approximately five million Americans have this progressive condition that involves loss of cognitive function and short term memory. Alzheimer’s disease appears o be on the rise in the United States with more and more cases being diagnosed each year. The most common risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease include old age, heredity and family history. Most of the patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease also have periodontal disease. This has led researchers to believe that there is a connection between these two disease states.

Periodontal Inflammation = Increased Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease?

Periodontal disease increases the risk of developing the cognitive disorder linked to Alzheimer’s disease. According to recent studies conducted to find out the causal relationship between these two conditions, people with periodontal inflammation face an increased risk of having lower cognitive functions compared to those without periodontal inflammation. The risk increases as the level of inflammation increases. Researchers believe that periodontal disease also causes an increased decline in  cognitive functions in people with already declining cognitive functions.

In 2005, a group of researchers noticed an increased presence of antibodies and inflammatory chemicals linked to periodontal disease in patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared to those of healthy individuals. Alzheimer’s disease patients also showed higher levels of periodontal bacteria in their brains. Researchers believe that when the oral periodontal bacteria multiply, they enter the blood stream and travel to the brain, where they cause infections and damage there.

researchers think there are three possible ways that periodontal disease can lead to Alzheimer’s:

1. Periodontal bacteria causes infections and damages brain cells.

2. Periodontal bacteria triggers inflammation on the brain. This inflammation is involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Oral bacteria responsible for periodontal disease causes vascular changes that can promote Alzheimer’s disease.

Relationship Between Periodontal Disease and Lowered Cognition

Reserachers used the Digital Symbol Test for cognitive function for people aged 70, those with periodontal inflammation had lower DST scores compared to those with little inflammation or none at all, even after considering other risk factors for low DST scores such as obesity and other forms of tooth loss unrelated to periodontal disease.

Early Periodontal Health and Alzheimer’s Disease

According to an article published in the Journal of American Dental Association, any kind of Inflammation as a child increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as an adult. Developing periodontal disease or losing teeth before the age of 35 increases the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease in old age. This makes it so important to maintain good oral hygiene throughout life.

Common Shared Risk Factors

Common risk factors for both Alzheimer’s disease and periodontal disease include genetics and smoking cigarettes. These risk factors could explain the connection between these two disease states. Periodontal inflammation and any kind of tooth loss are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

It is also possible that periodontal disease can cause cerebrovascular injury to the brain.  Stroke is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and periodontal disease increases the risk of developing stroke.

Alzheimer’s As a Risk Factor for Periodontal Disease

Patients of Alzheimer’s disease are not always able to practice the required oral and dental hygiene needed to maintain a healthy teeth and gums. This places them at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease.

While there is no conclusive evidence that gum disease causes Alzheimer’s disease or that taking proper care of teeth can reduce the risk of this form of dementia yet, numerous studies conclude that preventing periodontal disease is an effective way of avoiding or delaying Alzheimer’s disease. Along with a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a nutritious diet, regular visits to the dentist as well as practicing proper dental hygiene by brushing teeth and flossing are effective ways of preventing both diseases.



Dental health has been shown to be directly related to a person’s general overall health.  Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body so it makes sense that what happens in the mouth (teeth and gums) can have a profound impact on the rest of your body.  Scientific research also shows the reverse, the breakdown and disease processes of the body can directly affect your dental health.

1.  Stress

Oral Symptoms: Headaches with flat, worn down teeth.

Stress is one those things that people underestimate. It takes a tremendous toll on the body and mind. Teeth grinding and clenching during sleep is a classic sign of emotional or psychological stress factors. People who grind or clench their teeth tend to be quite surprised to find out they are doing it. After all, this activity generally occurs in their sleep, when they’re not aware of it, unless a partner hears the noise and tells them.

Patients can sometimes see the flatness of their own teeth, or even feel it with their tongue. They may notice their jaw feeling sore and achy upon waking. Headaches, which are caused by spasms in the muscles during and after clenching or grinding. Often the pain can radiate from the the teeth and TMJ and head down to the neck and upper back. Night guards can relieve the symptoms and protect the teeth from the harmful effects of grinding and clenching.

2. Diabetes or Sjogren’s Syndrome

Oral Symptoms: Dry Mouth or Xerostomia

Dry mouth can be casued by a variety of things. These can include dehydration and taking a new medication.Hundreds of drugs list dry mouth as a side effect. These include medications commonly prescribed such as muscle relaxants, antianxiety medications, and antihistamines. A lack of saliva in the mouth can also be an early warning sign of two different autoimmune diseases. These diseases are Diabetes and Sjogren’s sundrome.

Sjogrens syndrome is largely unknown. It is when the white blood cells of the body attack the salivary glands. This affects many, approximately 4 million Americans suffer with Sjogrens. It is much more prevalent in women, 90% of those diagnosed are female. In Sjogren’s, the eyes are dry as well as the mouth, but the entire body is affected by the disorder. Sjogren’s symptoms often appear like other diseases and often goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

Diabetes affects about 24 million people in the United States alone. It affects both men and women. It is a metabolic disorder caused by the bodies inability to process blood sugars properly. Other symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, dry mouth, tingling in the hands and feet, frequent need to urinate, blurry vision, and loss of weight.

3. Lichen planus

Oral Symptoms: White webbing inside cheeks.

Many people would never imagine they can discover a skin disease through an oral examination but you can. Lichen planus is a mild disorder that affects both men and women in the age range of 30-70. The cause is unknown. It affects the mucus membranes in the mouth.

Oral lichen planus  appears as a whitish, lacy pattern on the insides of the cheeks. About 70% appear in the oral cavity before they show up in other parts of the body.

The vagina is another common area where lichen planus can also appear. Lichen planus often goes away on its own, but sometimes further treatment is needed.

4. Oral Cancer

Oral Symptoms: Sores that just will not go away in mouth.

Marielaina Perrone DDS VelscopeMany people bite the insides of their mouth as a nervous habit. Sometimes people bite their cheek accidentally, creating a wound or sore. But when an open sore in the mouth does not go away on its own within a week or two, it needs to be shown to a dentist or doctor.

More than 20,000 men and 10,000 women a year are diagnosed with oral cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most are over the age of 60. Oral cancer has a survival rate of only about 35 percent. This is mainly due to late detection. Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer, but one in four oral cancers develop in non-smokers.

Suspicious oral sores or ulcers tend to be raised sores and often have red or white borders. They may hide under the tongue, where they’re hard to see. Bleeding and numbness are other signs, but sometimes the only sign is a sore that doesn’t seem to go away. A biopsy usually follows a visual check. At each dental visit you can increase your chances for early detection by seeing a dentist that uses a Velscope oral cancer screening system. This tool is effective in detecting precancerous changes in the mouth. Earlier detection means better chance for survival and cure.

5.  Aspiration pneumonia

Oral Symptoms: Crusting Dentures

Connecting pneumonia and dentures may seem like a real stretch but they have a deadly connection. A leading cause of senior deaths is from aspiration pneumonia. This is caused by inhaling debris from around teeth and dentures.

In aspiration pneumonia, foreign material is breathed into the lungs and airway, causing dangerous inflammation. This often occurs in those who fail to clean their dentures properly. Dentures need to be removed every day from the mouth. They should be properly cleaned daily with a brush and stored in a cleansing solution.

6. Angular chelitis and Candidiasis

Oral Symptoms: Mouth Irritation

Itching, burning, chronic irritation found at the corners of the mouth and inside the mouth and throat. The irritation in the mouth tends to be bright red with or without a white, creamy, layer. The corners of the mouth tend to crack and bleed easily. Both of these are caused by the same culprit, yeast. Chronic yeast infections tend to be a sign of immune system issues, extremely dry mouth, and/or  a collapsed bite.

Conclusion

The above six issues are just a sampling of the many symptoms that can be seen in the mouth. While you care for your dental health, you should be doing a routine thorough self examination for changes. You should know what the normal appearance of your mouth is, so that when something changes, you can have it checked early. Know your body, and find an experienced dentist who you feel comfortable with, so that all of your questions can be answered satisfactorily. Regular dental visits are usually key to early diagnosis for any of the diseases listed in this article..