In years past, a physician suspecting heart disease in a patient would probably not refer that patient to a gum specialist. The same could be said for diabetes or any other medical condition. In the last 10 years, however, studies on the mouth and body connection have grown considerably. We can now confirm that there is a direct link between oral health and overall health.
How It Works
Bacterial buildup on the teeth makes the gums more prone to infection. When the body’s immune system attacks the bacteria the gums become inflamed. When left untreated, the inflammation produces an inflammatory response and breaks down your gum tissue and supporting bone. These are symptoms of periodontitis. In recent studies, patients with periodontitis were 40 percent more likely to have a chronic systemic condition in addition to periodontitis.
Severe periodontitis is linked to heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 80 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of heart disease. Studies show that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels throughout the body. That inflammation causes the blood vessels to narrow, which leads to elevated blood pressure. Having inflamed and constricted blood vessels increases the chance of heart attack or stroke.
There is a strong connection between periodontitis and diabetes. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease makes it more difficult for patients with diabetes to control their blood sugar. Consequently the body has to function on high blood sugar for an increased period of time placing the patient at an increased risk for diabetic complications.
It is important to note the early signs of gum disease are painless and may go unnoticed. Key symptoms are bleeding, swollen gums, bad breath and receding gums. Diseases can be prevented with good oral home care like brushing and flossing daily. However, regular visits to the dentist are key to maintaining optimal oral health. If gum disease is found, there are effective treatments that can be done in the dental office.