10 years ago, it would not have seemed the natural first-step when diagnosing heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, or a host of other health issues for a medical doctor to refer a patient to a periodontist. However, within the past few years the mouth and body correlation is proving to be very strong. New research shows that controlling periodontitis can be a very beneficial first step when treating health issues that negatively affect the body- including diabetes, heart disease and pregnancy issues.
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Oral Health and Overall Health
In its most basic form, periodontitis is defined as the inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, leading to gum loss, which in turn can lead to tooth loss. This inflammation is caused by bacteria, and scientific studies have shown that the transfer of this bacteria to other areas of the body can be the culprit in many different diseases.
As stated in the article “Editor’s Consensus: Periodontitis and Atherosclerotic” that ran in both The American Journal of Cardiology and Journal of Periodontology, “results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) I and its follow-up studies suggests that nondiabetic adults with periodontal disease develop type 2 diabetes more often than those without periodontal disease.” This seems to be because the inflammation that starts in the mouth can weaken the body’s ability to manage blood sugar. Inversely, people with type 2 diabetes seem to have higher risks for contracting periodontal problems because their bodies are not as adept to fighting off disease.
Check out this amazing before-and-after photo from a patient of Dr. Aalam and Dr. Krivitsky who underwent root planing and periodontal surgery to correct the infection:
Periodontitis Linked with Heart Disease in LA
The associations with heart disease and periodontitis tend to stem from the plaque and bacteria that travels down blood vessels and clogs arteries in the heart. In severe cases these types of blockages can lead to heart attacks. In another study, researchers found a strong correlation between individuals who have had strokes and those who have had oral infections.
Although periodontitis is more prevalent in men, women also need to be very mindful of their oral health because gum disease has been linked to problems with pregnancy. During pregnancy the gums already tend to swell and woman with untreated periodontitis can suffer from premature births and underweight babies. Studies show that gum disease can activate hormonal fluids that induce labor. Therefore, it is incredibly important for pregnant woman suffering from gum disease to see a periodontist as well as a medical doctor.
Risk Factors for Gum Disease
Unfortunately there are risk factors for periodontitis that cannot be controlled by an individual. These include genetics and type 1 diabetes. Conversely, there are several non-oral risk factors that an individual can control, such as: type 2 diabetes, smoking, anxiety, depression, physical activity and obesity. Smoking may be the biggest risk factor for gum disease. As stated from the CDC, a smoker’s risk of severe gum disease is three times higher than someone who does not smoke. This is just another reason to quit smoking.
Although the research continues to grow on the mouth and body connection, we can draw a few conclusions. The first is that healthy living and taking care of yourself promotes good oral health. Secondarily, good oral health promotes a healthy body. The interweaving of these human systems are complex, but the evidence supports that taking care of your teeth with basic hygiene from brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups supports good overall health. Also, always see a specialist when you have cause for oral concern.
Learn more about the mouth and body connection in overall health from WebMD.com.
Contact an LA Periodontist today!
To learn more about the connection between oral health and overall health, contact the best periodontists in Los Angeles today.
Read about periodontology 101.