Your teeth and your health

Everyone has at least a good idea of the direct effects of dental problems on their health. Cavities can cause severe toothaches and infections which can spread throughout the body. Periodontal disease causes bad breath and loosening or loss of teeth. There are, however, a number of other areas of health that can be affected by dental diseases and more are being identified.

Cardiovascular (heart and the circulatory system) health is one area of particular concern to researchers studying the relationship between general health and oral health. Numerous studies have shown a high degree of correlation between gum disease (periodontal disease) and heart health. Having periodontal disease, research shows, increases the risk of heart disease. Periodontal disease can also cause existing heart conditions to worsen. It is believed that the constant inflammation and irritation of the gums resulting from this condition causes formation of something called a c-reactive protein that seems to be the causative agent involved with worsening of heart problems. We are uncertain how it exerts these effects . Other studies have indicated that there may be a relationship between gum disease and stroke as well.

Diabetes is another medical condition that may be caused or worsened by gum disease. Untreated periodontal disease has been shown to lead to decreased control of blood sugar and conversely treatment of the gum disease typically results in significant improvement of the diabetic condition. The evidence of this link between periodontal health and diabetes is so strong that some medical insurance companies have begun offering coverage for treatment of periodontal disease with the knowledge that it will save them money by paying for this versus paying for more expensive complications of diabetes.

Other researchers have found that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also has a strong correlation with poor oral health. The most common bacteria isolated from the lungs of sufferers of COPD are, interestingly, the most common bacteria associated with gum disease. In fact, studies have indicated that patients with periodontal disease are 4 ½ times more likely to develop COPD than are those with healthy mouths.

It has long been known that pregnant women with poor oral health are at higher risk of giving premature birth and those who do have term babies are more likely to deliver babies with lower-than-average birth weights.

Most recently researchers have found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop cancer of the pancreas and 30% more likely to develop cancers of the blood system.

Exploration of the links between oral health and the health of the rest of the body is research that is still in its infancy. I think that, while more oral-systemic links are likely to be discovered, we can all agree that the above health threats are more than enough to make it important to strive for good dental health. Care and treatment of gum diseases can be seen as an expensive and bothersome task- it is certainly less so than all of the above conditions. If you have or think you may have periodontal disease consult with your dental professional today- it could save your life.

Additional information is available at our website or the website of the American Dental Association : Thanks for reading.

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