Research Clarifies That Oral Health Is Connected To Whole Health

posted: February 20, 2018

Dentistry is an exciting field. I love that I can replace missing teeth in our patients with the durability and stability of Dental Implants. I am always pleased to watch a patient get that first look at their new smile after a cosmetic dentistry. Yet, I am thrilled that research is now proving the links between our oral health and our overall health.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Consider that the majority of the bacteria that enters the body comes in through the mouth. When gum disease weakens oral tissues, the potent bacteria can enter the bloodstream.

Years ago, researchers found that many serious diseases were the result of systemic inflammation. This occurs when the body’s immune system goes haywire and turns on itself. This chronic inflammation has been blamed for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, erectile dysfunction (ED) and a series of other problems.

What the researchers began to note was how oral bacteria could contribute to inflammatory triggers. For example, an article published in 2010 by the Journal of Oral Microbiology, they point out that “individuals with periodontitis (advanced gum disease) are reported to have an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease, stroke, myocardial infarction, and atherosclerosis” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3084572/)

The surge of research surrounding the link between periodontal disease and serious health problems has reached as far as showing connections with Alzheimer’s disease, preterm babies, some cancers (including lung, oral and pancreatic cancers), and contributing to elevated PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) levels.

Now, researchers are fast-tracking studies surrounding microbes. These have been found to be mixes of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Although it sounds like an icky cesspool, these microbes are much like the bacteria in our guts.

For those of us who take a daily probiotic capsule, we do this so the good-guy bacteria in our digestive system can keep the bad-guy bacteria in check. It’s a similar issue with microbes. Researchers have determined that microbiome send signals to certain parts of the body. These signals can help with the efficiency of certain functions, but like bad-guy bacteria in the gut, they can also misfire. It is in the misfire that has become the focus of many studys. What causes them to misbehave?

Getting back to the bacteria in your mouth, we’ve acknowledged that it is plentiful and can enter the bloodstream. When certain strains of periodontal disease bacteria settle in at certain points, a chain reaction begins, none of it good. One study found that the makeup of the bacteria found in advanced gum disease was almost identical to tissues taken from arthritic joints. And, findings also showed that the successful treatment of gum disease could create significant reductions in arthritis symptoms. (https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/comorbidities/gum-disease/ra-and-gum-disease.php)

When it comes to the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are looking diligently for potential sources. In one study, a team at Chung Shan Medical University used data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database to examine whether patients age 50 or older with chronic periodontitis had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Although no overall link was determined between periodontitis and Alzheimer‘s, they found that “people who had the chronic gum inflammation for 10 or more years were 70 percent more likely than people without periodontitis to develop Alzheimer’s disease.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-alzheimers-gum-disease/long-term-gum-disease-linked-to-alzheimers-disease-idUSKCN1AX2F0)

Certainly, we want fresh breath and bright smiles, which are good reasons to brush and floss. However, these findings are pretty telling that a healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body, and vice versa.

If you’re behind on regular dental checkups and cleanings, let’s get you seen sooner than later. You may be doing a lot more than avoiding cavities! Call 843-871-6351 to schedule, or ask to begin with a free, no obligation consultation. During this time, I can discuss a program that may be appropriate for your needs as well as comfort options and easy payment plans.