The Mouth-Body Connection

There is an abundance of evidence in the medical and dental literature that shows there is a strong connection between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue, presence of disease-causing bacteria, and infection below the gum line. Infections and bacteria in the mouth can spread throughout the body and lead to a host of problematic health issues. Therefore, maintaining excellent oral hygiene and reducing the progression of periodontal disease through treatment will have benefits beyond preventing gum disease and bone loss.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious, incurable disease that is characterized by too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Diabetes affects between 12 and 14 million Americans, and can lead to a variety of health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Research has shown people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-diabetics. Diabetics with insufficient blood sugar control also develop periodontal disease more frequently and severely than those who have good management over their diabetes.

The connection between diabetes and periodontal disease results from a variety of factors. Diabetes sufferers are more susceptible to all types of infections, including periodontal infections, due to the fact diabetes slows circulation, allowing bacteria to colonize. Diabetes also reduces the body’s overall resistance to infection, which increases the probability of the gums becoming infected.

Blood vessel thickening is another concern for diabetics. Blood vessels function by providing nutrients and removing waste products from the body. When they become thickened by diabetes, these exchanges are unable to occur. As a result, harmful waste is left in the mouth and can weaken the resistance of gum tissue, leading to infection and disease.

Smoking and tobacco use is detrimental to anyone’s oral and overall health, but it is particularly harmful to diabetics. Diabetic smokers 45 and older are in fact 20 times more likely to develop periodontal disease than those who do no smoke. It is very important for everyone to brush teeth effectively, floss daily, and visit the dentist regularly, but it is especially essential that diabetics practice these measures.

Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke

Coronary heart disease occurs when fatty proteins and a substance called plaque build up on the walls of your arteries. This causes the arteries to narrow, constricting blood flow. Oxygen is restricted from traveling to the heart which results in shortness of breath, chest pain, and even heart attack.

The link between periodontal disease and heart disease is so apparent that patients with oral conditions are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those with healthy mouths. Periodontal disease has also been shown to exacerbate existing heart conditions. Additionally, patients with periodontal disease have been known to be more susceptible to strokes. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is suddenly stopped. This may occur, for example, when a blood clot prevents blood from reaching the brain.

One of the connections between periodontal disease and heart disease is oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. The bacteria induce an inflammatory response and cascade of events that can lead to an increase in white blood cells and C-reactive proteins (CRP). CRP is a protein that has long been associated with heart disease. When levels are increased in the body, it amplifies the body’s natural inflammatory response. Bacteria from periodontal disease may enter the bloodstream, causing the liver to produce extra CRP, which then leads to inflamed arteries and possibly blood clots. Inflamed arteries can lead to blockage, which can cause heart attacks or strokes.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Enacting positive oral hygiene practices and obtaining treatment for periodontal problems can help prevent the risk of developing this condition.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Pregnant women with periodontal disease expose their unborn children to a variety of risks and possible complications.  Periodontitis has been linked to preeclampsia, or low birth weight of the baby, as well as premature birth. Fortunately, halting the progression of periodontal disease through practicing high standards of oral hygiene and treating existing problems can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease-related complications by up to 50%.

There are several factors that contribute to why periodontal disease may affect the mother and her unborn child. One is an increase in prostaglandin in mothers with advanced stages of periodontal disease, particularly periodontitis. Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in the oral bacteria associated with periodontitis. Because periodontitis increases the levels of prostaglandin, the mother may go into labor prematurely and deliver a baby with a low birth weight.

Another compound that has recently been linked to premature birth and low birth weights is C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a protein that has long been associated with heart disease. Periodontal disease increases CRP levels in the body, which then amplify the body’s natural inflammatory response. Bacteria from periodontal disease may enter the bloodstream, causing the liver to produce extra CRP, which then leads to inflamed arteries and possibly blood clots. Inflamed arteries can lead to blockage, which can cause heart attacks or strokes. Although it is not completely understood why elevated CRP also causes preeclampsia, studies have overwhelmingly proven that an extremely high rate of CRP in early pregnancy definitely increases the risk.

Finally, the bacteria that invade and live in the gum sockets in a diseased mouth can travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. For pregnant women, research has shown that these bacteria may colonize in the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries. If you are pregnant, it is important to practice effective home care for preventing gum disease.

Periodontal Disease and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition common in older patients, and particularly women, that is characterized by the loss of bone density over time. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, or when the body absorbs too much old bone. The leading cause of osteoporosis is a drop in estrogen in menopausal women, or a drop in testosterone among men. Sufferers of osteoporosis must take extra care in daily activities, as they are at increased risk for bone fractures.

Because periodontal disease can also lead to bone loss, the two diseases have been studied for possible connections. Research has shown that people who suffer from osteoporosis are 86% more likely to also develop periodontal disease.

One of the reasons for the connection between osteoporosis and periodontal disease is an estrogen deficiency. Estrogen deficiency speeds up the progression of both oral bone loss and other bone loss. It also accelerates the rate of loss of fibers and tissues which keep the teeth stable. Tooth loss occurs when these fibers are destroyed.

Low mineral bone density is one of the several causes of osteoporosis. The inflammation from periodontal disease can possibly contribute to loss of systemic bone density. This is why periodontitis can be particularly detrimental and progressive to patients with osteoporosis.

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is extremely important to take preventative measures against periodontal disease to protect your teeth and oral bones.

Call Dallas Office Phone Number 214-691-2404 with any questions or concerns.