The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Your Overall Health
Periodontal disease is the infection of structures around the teeth; including the gums, the cementum which covers the root, the periodontal ligament, and the alveolar bone. The earliest and most commonly known stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis, infection of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis leads to periodontal disease. As the disease progresses into its more advanced stages, the above mentioned supporting tissues become involved. Periodontal disease is estimated to affect between twenty and fifty percent of the population around the world.
Research is ongoing, but in recent years, gum disease has been linked to a number of health problems. Several studies have produced findings indicating periodontal disease may be a risk factor to other diseases, including:
Cardiovascular disease – Severe, untreated periodontal disease could leave people at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Oral bacteria, such as streptococcus gordonii and streptococcus sanguinis, are common infecting agents in the mouth. Researchers have found that these oral bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream and attach to platelets, which can then form blood clots interrupting the flow of blood to the heart.
Stroke – Periodontal disease results from the mouth tissue’s inflammatory response to advancing bacterial infection. People with particularly high levels of oral bacteria may have weakened immune systems and an inadequate host inflammatory response. Similar to the risks for cardiovascular disease, oral bacteria attached to platelets in the bloodstream can form clots interrupting the flow of blood to the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease – Periodontal disease may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests that individuals with normal cognitive function who suffer from periodontal inflammation are at an increased risk of experiencing lower cognitive function when compared to cognitively normal individuals with little or no periodontal inflammation.
Pancreatic cancer – Some scientists believe there may be a link between high levels of carcinogenic compounds found in the mouths of people with gum disease and pancreatic cancer risk. They argue that these compounds – called nitrosamines – may react to the digestive chemicals in the gut in a way that creates an environment favorable to the development of pancreatic cancer.
Diabetes, and more…For years, it was thought that bacteria alone was the factor that linked periodontal disease to other diseases in the body; however, more recent and ongoing research indicates that the body’s inflammatory response to bacterial infections may be responsible for the association. Therefore, treating chronic inflammation may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory associated conditions.
Proper oral hygiene is one way to reduce the risk of diseases associated with inflammation. Brush and floss your teeth twice a day. Take time to do a thorough job, 2 minutes is all it takes twice a day. Use an appropriate brush for the job. A soft bristled brush with a head shape that allows easy access to your back teeth and insides of your top and bottom jaw is best. After brushing, be sure to rinse your toothbrush and store it up and away from any soiled surfaces to keep it clean. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner when the bristles show signs of wear or fraying. Floss once a day, at night before bed is best, be gentle with your gums and work your way around each individual tooth.
If the mouth is the gateway to the body; it makes sense that proper oral care and prevention of oral disease is key to reducing the risk for other health concerns. To learn more about preventing periodontal disease and the connection between your oral health and overall health, come visit our dentists in Edmonton at Uptown Dental Centre. We’ve got answers to your oral health questions!