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Periodontal Health Is Key to Your Overall Health

by Dr. Scot Ioset, DDS on 06/15/11

Did you know that the health of your teeth and gum tissue is closely related to the overall health of your body? Did you know that poor care of your mouth has been correlated to conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some cancers? Many people don't realize the connection between good oral hygiene and their health.

Periodontal disease can be defined as an infection of the tissues that support your teeth (ADA). It is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. Signs and symptoms of possible periodontal disease include: gums that bleed easily; red, swollen, tender gums; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath or bad taste; permanent teeth that are loose or separating; puss or sores in gums; any change in the way that your teeth come together when you bite; and any change in the fit of partial dentures (ADA).

A Look at Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Plaque, and therefore bacteria, along the gum line can cause irritation and infection. This may be mild at first, but as the condition progresses the infection can undermine the integrity of the teeth as the infected gums pull away from the teeth, exposing and compromising the bone.

So how is periodontal disease connected to other serious conditions within the body?  The body recognizes the infection within the gums and responds to it. Periodontal disease is a chronic disease causing inflammation, and therefore the response of the body is constant, with no time for recuperation. The continuous presence of bacteria, immune cells and inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein and other cytokines, may directly or indirectly influence or injure tissue to cause or worsen some common chronic diseases. Researchers are finding that increased levels of inflammatory proteins may facilitate the build-up of plaque within blood vessels more favorable for the build-up of fatty deposits. Insulin resistance, blood clot formation and brain cell activity may also be impacted by the presence of the previously mentioned cells and markers. Bacteria from the mouth also can travel to other places in the body, colonize and cause infection there.

The following diseases have been correlated or linked to periodontal disease:

  • Heart disease and heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • Miscarriage, preeclampsia and preterm birth
  • Pneumonia and other lung diseases
  • Cancer of the blood, pancreas, tongue, lung and kidney
  • Osteoporosis
It is not known whether periodontal disease causes or exacerbates these conditions, but since a correlation has been found to such serious conditions, good reason dictates that good oral care is a good, simple step toward your best health possible.

Care of your mouth is fairly simple; you already know the steps to prevent and treat mild forms of periodontal disease. Brush twice a day to remove the plaque from your teeth. Your tooth brush can't reach everywhere, cleaning between your teeth using floss or interdental cleaners ensures the plaque has been removed from those spaces. Lastly, visit your dentist's office at least once every 6 months for regular cleanings and periodontal exams. Very often you don't notice the development of periodontal disease within your mouth; this can be easily diagnosed by your hygienist and dentist. By regularly visiting your dentist, you can detect and treat periodontal disease in its early stages and prevent the damage caused by later, more advanced stages of the disease.

Dr. Oz, a physician that hosts a popular daytime television show on health topics, has covered periodontal disease and its impact on overall health. Visit his website to read an excellent article that reviews the information we discussed today:

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