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Periodontal disease, comes in two forms gingivitis (reversible) and periodontitis (treatable but non reversible), is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria found in plaque. Recent studies have shown between 50-75% of people have some form of periodontal disease. More statistics show that approximately 30% of Americans are at an increased risk of developing periodontal disease due to genetic factors. These statistics show how much a health concern periodontal disease can be especially when you add in even more research showing periodontal disease links with systemic diseases.

Factors in Development of Periodontal Disease

-Poor Oral Hygiene.

-Tobacco Use.

-Medications.

-Teeth Grinding or Bruxism.

-Genetics.

-Poor Immune System

-Systemic disease.

The earliest and mildest stage of gum disease is gingivitis, where the gums redden and bleed easily. If not treated, inflammation of the tissue occurs, resulting in progression of  the disease to periodontitis. Gingivitis is characterized by receding gums, loose teeth, sores, sensitive gums, swollen gums, red or discolored gums, chronic bad breath, change in teeth alignment and teeth movement. The ultimate consequence of advanced periodontal disease is loss of teeth, which occurs when the tissue and bone supporting the tooth breaks down.

Periodontal disease was previously thought to affect only the teeth and gums, but researchers have discovered that periodontal disease influences the overall health and well-being of an individual. Research has shown that gum disease is a risk factor for many health conditions throughout the body. The gum disease causing bacteria that normally resides around the teeth can enter the blood stream and reach other organs and tissues in the body. Once there, the bacteria  release disease-causing agents that can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions that can include:

Diabetes Mellitus (or simply Diabetes)

Periodontal disease impairs the body’s ability to maintain blood sugar levels making you more prone to diabetes or making diabetic symptoms worse. On the other hand, diabetic patients are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease due to a weakened immune system, making it easier for them to catch infections, viruses, and exhibit delayed wound healing.

Stroke

According to scientific studies, gum disease increases the risk of stroke and coronary artery disease. A chronic infection of the gums can be directly related to an increased risk of reduced blood flow to the brain. Stroke and gum disease have similar risk factors and severe inflammation from periodontal disease increases the risks of having a stroke.

Heart Disease

Having periodontal disease puts you at higher risks of heart disease. Just like periodontal disease, heart disease is a chronic inflammatory disease which can be greatly impacted by periodontal disease. The more severe the periodontal infection, the higher the risk of developing heart conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and acute coronary syndrome.

Respiratory Infections

When the bacteria in the plaque that causes gum disease goes to the lungs, it can cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. This explains the increased cases of pneumonia and other respiratory conditions in people with periodontal disease. This also is in conjunction with patients with lowered immune systems which makes it easier for them to be susceptible to these bacterial attacks.

Cancer

After considering risk factors for cancer including age, diabetes, smoking, BMI and more, experts found periodontal disease as a risk factor for lung, kidney, pancreatic, head, neck and hematologic cancers. Inflammation caused by periodontal disease is a major contributing factor to these cancers.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Periodontal disease can result in chronic bad breath which is more of a social issue than a medical one. Bacteria deposits on the tongue can also cause bad breath. This is one of the few conditions caused by periodontal disease that can be treated at home by practicing proper dental care to control halitosis (brushing, flossing, mouthrinses, tongue scraping).

Complications with Birth and Pregnancy

Periodontal disease in pregnant mothers has been shown to increase the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight. The  periodontal bacteria involved cause inflammation of the uterus and cervix. Periodontal disease also increases the risk of developing preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and excess protein.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints. The relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease goes both ways as each increases inflammation in the other. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are faced with increased risks and severity of periodontal disease and treating periodontal disease can relieve some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Conclusion

The best and easiest way to prevent and control periodontal disease is by maintaining a good oral hygiene program which includes regular dental visits as well as diligent at home care. This includes brushing, flossing, use of mouth rinse, and tongue scraping. Your health is important, taking care of your dental health is a great way to start taking care of your overall health.

 

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.

Recent research has shown direct connections between dental health and general health. This makes regular visits to the dentist for dental examinations and professional cleanings doubly important. Poor dental health has been linked to many different health issues. Below you will find a list of the top 7 diseases associated with poor dental health.

Poor Dental Health Can Contribute to Dangerous Health Issues.

-Cancer. Studies have shown a definite link between progressive periodontal disease and cancer. It is believed to be linked to systemic inflammation (a major factor in periodontal disease) which promotes the growth of cancerous cells. Researchers found that men with periodontal disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop cancers of the blood.

-Heart Disease / Stroke. When dental hygiene is not maintained, the bacteria in the mouth can multiply and grow out of control. This bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread to the rest of the body. If the oral bacteria reach the heart, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the heart (endocarditis). This condition can lead to heart damage or even a stroke. Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures.

-Respiratory Disease. Studies have found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

-Alzheimer’s Disease. This needs further study but recent research has linked poor oral hygiene maintenance with development of alzheimer’s disease.

-Low Birth Weight For Newborns. Recent studies have shown periodontal disease in pregnant women to lead to possible low birth weight. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. However, more research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes.   Any and all infections are a concern to pregnant women because they pose a risk to the baby’ health.

The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology completed a study regarding early labor in pregnant women diagnosed with periodontal disease. A number of the participants were given an alcohol-free mouth rinse designed to kill the oral bacteria linked to periodontal disease, the other group were told to follow their usual procedures. Of the women given the mouth rinse, 25 percent saw a decreased risk in premature labor and delivery.

-Diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes. This is probably because people with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes. Those people who don’t have their diabetes under control are especially at risk. Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar. This puts people with diabetes at increased risk for diabetic complications.

Periodontal disease is a definite issue for people diagnosed with diabetes, because their body has a hard time fighting the infection. In addition, experts feel that periodontal disease also makes it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar levels in non-diabetic patients. People with no prior signs of diabetes suddenly have high blood sugar levels, and people previously diagnosed with diabetes struggle to lower their blood sugar levels.

Conclusion

The evidence is mounting, showing that dental health is linked to general health. Periodontal disease alone is treatable, but can be quite a fight to manage once it reaches critical levels. Adding periodontal disease to systemic disease makes it even harder to control. It is best to manage periodontal issues early while your health is intact and stay healthy for a lifetime of smiles. Your dentist and hygienist will help teach you all that you need to know to keep your gums in optimum condition.

Regular exercise has been long proven to improve quality of life. Bet you did not know regular exercise is good for your dental health too! Recent research suggests that regular workouts can help prevent periodontal disease.

Exercise And Dental Linked?

Numerous studies have been completed over the last 10 years confirming a definite link between regular exercise and increased dental health. These studies have been published in well respected publications like the Journal of Periodontology and the Journal of Dentistry. Let’s see what each study had to say…

Journal Of Periodontology

One study followed three health enhancing behaviors maintaining normal weight, regular exercise, and a well balanced diet) to see the effect on periodontal disease. The researchers found that patients who followed these three behaviors were 40% less likely to have progressive periodontal disease.

Another Journal of Periodontolgy study showed lower risk of periodontal disease amongst the least obese and the most physically fit subjects. The study concluded that obesity and physical fitness may have some interactive effect on periodontal health. One factor they share: inflammation, which physical activity reduces. It is important to note that inflammation is a key factor in other systemic diseases as well. These include diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Journal Of Dentistry

This study followed the effects of exercise and smoking on periodontal health. The study found that patients who never smoked and exercised regularly were about 54% less likely to have progressive periodontal disease than those who did not exercise. It also found that former smokers had a 74% lower risk of having periodontal disease.

Exercise And Dental Health Conclusion

Working out helps improve digestion and can help your body use vitamins and minerals that are essential to dental health more effectively. If you exercise and eat a well balanced diet, your body is better able to use the nutrients in food to strengthen and protect your smile.

Physical fitness can greatly contribute to dental health as well as your overall health. It can also improve your mood, help you manage stress and increase brainpower. If you’re not already, we encourage you to make regular exercise a habit.