Periodantal Disease – The Mouth-Body Connection

New research has shown us that there is a firm link between periodontal disease and chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Periodontal disease gives the patient swollen gums, infections below the visible gum line, and disease causing bacteria. Bacteria and infections in the mouth are not isolated from the rest of the body, they are able to spread and cause other conditions. This is why maintaining effective dental hygiene is so essential in preventing periodontal disease. Treating periodontal disease will prevent gum disease and even bone loss. Effective treatment can also go a long way towards preventing other health concerns.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes is an incurable disease that affects many people, approximately 12 to 14 million in the United States. It occurs when there is too much sugar or glucose in the blood of a patient. Type two diabetes develops when the body is not able to manage its own insulin levels, this leaves too much glucose remaining in the blood stream. Type one diabetes is when the patient is not able to produce any of their own insulin at all. Diabetes can also lead to other serious health conditions like stroke and heart disease.

There is research that suggests that diabetics are far more likely to develop periodontal disease than those who are not diabetic. Those who are not able to effectively control their blood sugar are much more likely to develop periodontal disease more commonly and severely than those who manage these levels correctly.

This link is a result of a wide range of factors. As a diabetic the individual is more susceptible to all kinds of infections, including ones of a periodontal nature. This is due to the fact that diabetes slows down blood circulation giving bacteria ideal conditions to colonize and multiply. The disease also diminishes the body’s general ability to fight off infections which does not help the gum tissue from being infected.

Both moderate and severe instances of periodontal disease will raise blood sugar levels, which only serves to increase the time the body as to operate with high levels of blood sugar. Diabetics who suffer from periodontal disease are more likely to have increased blood sugar levels making controlling their blood sugar that much more difficult. The elevated sugar levels in their saliva also foster the growth of disease causing bacteria in their gums.

Thickening of the blood vessels is another problem for diabetics. When they are thickened they are not able to provide nutrients and remove waste from the body, their primary function. This means that the damaging waste that is left in the gum tissue is able to accumulate causing disease and infection.

Smoking may be bad for everyone’s overall and dental health but it is especially damaging for diabetics. Periodontal disease is 20 times more likely to occur in diabetic smokers ages 45 and older than those who do not smoke at all.

It is especially important for diabetics to maintain good oral hygiene. Flossing brushing and regular dental appointments will help reduce the harmful bacteria and prevent periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

Coronary heart disease is caused when plaque and fatty proteins are able to accumulate on the interior of the arteries. This means that there is less room for blood to flow which reduces circulation. This leads to lower levels of oxygen reaching the heart which causes symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and even heart attacks.

Patients who suffer oral conditions are almost twice as likely to also have coronary artery disease than those with good oral health. Existing heart conditions may be intensified if the patient also suffers from periodontal disease. The odds of a stroke also rise with periodontal disease. A stroke is when the blood flow to the brain is abruptly interrupted. This can be caused by blood clots.

Oral bacteria infiltrating the bloodstream is one link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Some of the wide range of bacteria are able to adhere themselves to the plaque in the coronary arteries. This only serves to impede more and more blood from getting to where it needs to go, further boosting the risk of heart attacks and other medical conditions.

The swelling generated by periodontal disease boosts the patient’s white blood cell count and C reactive proteins (CRP). This protein has been connected with heart disease for a long time. When there is more of it in the body it augments the body’s inflammatory response. When an artery is inflamed it can slow down blood flow just as plaque can, and can have similar consequences like strokes and heart attacks.

Coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Keeping a strong oral hygiene routine and treating any conditions can help you reduce your risk factor to these life threatening conditions.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

When a pregnant mother has periodontal disease it can be transferred to their children, which increases their risk. With the hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy also come increased risk of developing periodontal disease like the swelling of the gums or gingivitis. These conditions have been connected to low birth weight, premature birth and preeclampsia. Luckily stopping the growth of periodontal disease can reduce the likelihood of these complications by 50%. This can be achieved by treating existing problems and preventing future ones by practicing strong oral hygiene.

The increased level of prostaglandin in mothers that suffer from advanced forms of periodontal disease will have an adverse effect on the child. This compound induces labour which can cause premature birth and low birth weight for the child. Prostaglandin levels are increased by periodontitis.

C Reactive protein has not only been linked to heart disease but has been connected to premature births as well. The inflammation caused by elevated levels of CRP has been linked to blood clots and clogged arteries. It is not yet known why the link between this protein and preeclampsia exists but the data suggests that they are. High levels of CRP in early pregnancy do however increase the odds of having preeclampsia.

Bacteria that resides within the gum sockets of a mouth with periodontal disease does have the potential to move through the bloodstream and damage other areas of the body. Pregnant women are susceptible to these bacteria growing in the mammary glands as well as the coronary arteries.

Preventing gum disease is more critical if you are currently pregnant than you may have thought. We at Martindale Dental can help not only assess your oral health but treat any problems and implement preventive measures.

Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease begins when small droplets are inhaled into the lungs. These droplets can bring bacteria into the lungs that may impair the patient’s ability to breathe. This bacteria has recently been shown to be able to come from the mouth as well, and can exacerbate pre existing lung conditions.

Pneumonia and other conditions like it can be caused by bacteria that are developed in the oral cavity that travel to the lungs. Patients that suffer from periodontal disease are far more likely to suffer from this condition. Periodontal disease may also play a part in catching emphysema and bronchitis. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been shown to grow worse if the patient has periodontal disease.

One of the main reasons for the links from periodontal disease to respiratory problems is a decreased level of immunity. Respiratory problems tend to occur in patients with low immunity which does not help them fend off the advance of bacteria in the mouth. As soon as periodontal disease is involved it will exacerbate any respiratory issues.

Swelling within the mouth is also connected to respiratory conditions. The bacteria in the mouth that causes the inflammation has the ability to move to the lungs and further inflame the lung tissue. This creates breathing problems because it does not allow the same amount of air to pass through the lungs.

If you suffer from either periodontal disease or respiratory disease, your doctor and our dentists will work together to find the best treatment plan for you.

Periodontal Disease and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bone tissue thins and loses density over time. It is more common in older patients, usually women. It starts when the body is unable to form sufficient new bone or when the body absorbs excessive old bone. The leading cause among men is testosterone dropping, and estrogen dropping in women. This increases the risk of fractures and brakes so sufferers must be careful. Since both osteoporosis and periodontal disease can both cause bone loss a connection has been investigated. Postmenopausal women that have osteoporosis are 86% more likely to contract periodontal disease. Bone loss in the jaw can cause tooth loss, which can be prevented by fighting periodontal disease. Sufferers of osteoporosis can reduce tooth loss by treating periodontal disease.

These two conditions are linked through an estrogen deficiency. An estrogen deficiency boosts the rate at which bone is lost, not just in the mouth but the entire body as well. It also boosts the speed at which tissue and fibres that keep teeth in place are lost, this can cause teeth to fall out. Osteoporosis is partially caused by lower mineral bone density. Periodontal disease boosts swelling which also serves to damage bones making them break down more easily. This is precisely why periodontal disease can be so harmful for those that suffer from osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis it is critical that you take precautionary steps to safeguard your teeth and bones from disease.

Martindale Dental provides both general and specialty dentistry under one roof.  For more than 20 years, our dentists have been advocates for their patients oral health care needs. Our dental offices are conveniently located in Toronto, North York, St Catharines, North York, Burlington, Milton East and Milton West, Ontario. We offer convenient before & after work and weekend appointments.