The Mouth Body Connection

Research has recently proven what dentists have long suspected: that there is a strong connection between periodontal diseases and other chronic systemic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Periodontal diseases are 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 health issues. Therefore, maintaining excellent oral hygiene and reducing the progression of periodontal disease through treatment will have benefits beyond preventing tooth loss.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious, incurable disease that is characterized by too much sugar, in the blood. Diabetes affects between 12 and 14 million Americans, and can lead to a variety of health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Research has shown people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal diseases than non-diabetics. Diabetics with insufficient blood sugar control also develop periodontal disease more frequently and more severely than those who have good management over their diabetes.

The connection between diabetes and periodontal diseases results from a variety of factors. Diabetes sufferers are generally more susceptible to all types of infections, including periodontal infections. Diabetics with untreated periodontitis are most likely to suffer from increased blood sugar levels, making it more difficult to keep control of their blood sugar. Further, high glucose levels in saliva promote growth of gum disease-causing bacteria.

Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

Coronary heart disease occurs when fatty proteins and a substance called plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries. This causes the arteries to narrow, constricting blood flow. Oxygen is restricted from traveling to the heart which results in shortness of breath, chest pain, and even heart attacks. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is suddenly stopped. This may occur, for example, when a blood clot prevents blood from reaching the brain.

The link between periodontal diseases and heart disease is so apparent that patients with untreated periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease, than those with healthy mouths. Additionally, patients with periodontal diseases 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. There are many strains of periodontal bacteria. Some strains enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. This attachment leads to clot formation and increased risk to a variety of issues including heart attack.

Another link between periodontal diseases and heart disease and stroke is C-reactive protein. Inflammation caused by periodontal diseases creates an increase in white blood cells and C-reactive proteins (CRP). CRP are proteins that have long-been associated with heart disease. When CRP levels are increased in the body, they amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response which can then lead to inflamed arteries and possibly blood clots. Inflamed arteries can lead to blockage, which can cause heart attacks or strokes.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Enacting positive oral hygiene practices and obtaining treatment for periodontal problems can help prevent the risk of developing this unfortunate condition.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Pregnant mothers with untreated 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 diseases. These oral problems have been linked to preeclampsia, low birth weight of the baby, as well as premature birth. There are several factors that contribute to why periodontal disease may affect the mother and her unborn child. One factor is an increase in prostaglandin in mothers with untreated periodontal diseases. Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in the oral bacteria associated with periodontitis. Because periodontitis increases the levels of prostaglandin, the mother may go into labor prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.

Another compound that has recently been linked to premature birth and low birth weights is C-reactive protein (CRP). Periodontal disease increases CRP levels in the body, which then amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response. Although it is not completely understood why elevated CRP also causes preeclampsia, studies have overwhelmingly proven that an extremely high rate of CRP in early pregnancy definitely increases the risk.

If you are pregnant, it is important to practice effective home care for preventing gum disease. Our surgeons can help assess your level of oral health and develop preventative measures and treatment plans to best protect you and your baby.

Periodontal Disease & Tobacco

Current studies have linked periodontal diseases with tobacco usage. Cases of periodontal disease are more severe in smokers and tobacco-user than those of non-users of tobacco. There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth, and a greater loss of the bone and fibers that hold teeth in your mouth.

Chemicals in tobacco such as nicotine and tar also slow down healing and the predictability of success following periodontal treatment. Quitting smoking and tobacco-use can have innumerous benefits for your overall health and your periodontal health.