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 is characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue, presence of disease-causing bacteria, and infection below the gum line. Infections and bacteria in the mouth can spread throughout the body and lead to a host of problematic health issues. Therefore, maintaining excellent oral hygiene and reducing the progression of periodontal disease through treatment will have benefits beyond preventing gum disease and bone loss.
Periodontal Disease and Diabetes
Research has shown people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-diabetics. Diabetes sufferers are more susceptible to all types of infections, including periodontal infections, due to the fact that diabetes slows circulation, allowing bacteria to colonize. Diabetes also reduces the body’s overall resistance to infection, which increases the probability of the gums becoming infected.
The link between periodontal disease and heart disease is so apparent that patients with oral conditions are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those with healthy mouths. Periodontal disease has also been proven to exacerbate existing heart conditions. Additionally, patients with periodontal disease have been known to be more susceptible to strokes.
One of the causes of the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease is oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Inflammation caused by periodontal disease creates an increase in white blood cells and C-reactive proteins (CRP). When levels are increased in the body, it amplifies the body’s natural inflammatory response.
Pregnant women with periodontal disease expose their unborn children to a variety of risks and possible complications. Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes in women, which increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease such as gingivitis, or gum inflammation. Fortunately, halting the progression of periodontal disease through practicing high standards of oral hygiene and treating existing problems can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease-related complications by up to 50%.
Bacteria that grow in the oral cavity and travels into the lungs can cause respiratory problems such as pneumonia and occurs mostly in patients with periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has also been proven to have a role in the contraction of bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory condition characterized by blockage of the airways, and caused mostly by smoking, has also been proven to worsen if the patient also has periodontal disease.
Because periodontal disease can also lead to bone loss, the two diseases have been studied for possible connections. Research found that women with periodontal bacteria in their mouths were more likely to have bone loss in the oral cavity and jaw, which can lead to tooth loss. Further, it was found that post-menopausal women who suffer from osteoporosis are 86% more likely to also develop periodontal disease. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is extremely important to take preventative measures against periodontal disease to protect your teeth and oral bones.