We all know the keys to good oral health: brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and a dental checkup at least once every six months. This will keep your gums healthy and cavities at bay.
But did you know it can also help prevent cancer and avoid heart attacks?
In fact, there has been a surge in recent research linking inflamed gums with poor total health. According to Dr. David Paquette of the School of Dental Medicine at Stony Brook University in New York, dental issues suffered by a mother can even negatively affect her unborn child.
Dr. Paquette also warns that people with periodontal disease generally have worse glycemic control. This condition puts them at greater risk of various cardiovascular diseases.
Recently, the biennial International Dental Exhibition and Meeting was hosted for the eighth time. Dr. Paquette participated in this event in Singapore and spoke at length concerning the association between gum disease and cardiovascular occurrences, such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Periodontal disease is often indicated by gums that are red and swollen. Such inflammation is a chronic condition that attacks the tissue and even the underlying bone. If this inflammation helps lead to atherosclerosis, the blood vessel walls can thicken, impede blood flow, and increase blood pressure.
Dr. Paquette did emphasize that the link between gum disease and cardiovascular events may be modest. But he also stressed that the issue becomes magnified in populations where the prevalence of periodontal disease is quite high. He cited populations where that number was 50 percent.
The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology recently released a study that suggests a more-than-modest association. These researchers analyzed dental disease in more than 16,000 people suffering from chronic heart disease across 39 countries. It found gingivitis and tooth loss to be potential markers for cardiovascular disease. It also found evidence of periodontal bacteria triggering atherosclerosis.
How prevalent tooth loss is in a population often coincides with the prevalence of heart disease risk factors. These include glucose levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and waist circumference.
A separate study, which was conducted at Columbia University and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that improving gum health in a patient actually slowed the development of atherosclerosis. This was achieved by monitoring more than 400 adults over a period of three years.
The link between oral health and total health extends beyond just the heart. It has also been linked with the human papillomavirus. Cancer Prevention Research indicates that HPV infections cause at least 40 percent of oral cancers and may cause as much as 80 percent of all occurrences.
The School of Public Health at the University of Texas studied 3,500 people and found that those with poor oral health were 56 percent more likely to have an oral HPV infection.
HPV generally requires a wound in the mouth to establish the infection. People with poor oral health often have inflammation or ulcers that make them more susceptible. Not all HPV types are the same. While some lead to cancers, others are lower risk and can lead to mouth warts or benign tumors.
The Journal of Virology recently published a study linking gum disease to a cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, which can manifest orally. Researchers found particular bacteria in the saliva of patients and believe that this discovery may serve as the basis for early testing to identify pre-malignant KS.
Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is among the bacteria studied, produces a particular protein. Other research has linked that specific protein to immune responses that, when triggered, can cause chronic inflammation. That chronic inflammation can eventually destroy cartilage and bone.
Earlier, we mentioned Dr. Paquette’s warning about the risks of dental disease while pregnant. There have been at least several studies in this vein that have associated periodontal disease in a mother with premature births as well as low birth weights. These studies have also found associations between a mother’s gum disease and long-term health issues in children, such as respiratory problems, inferior vision, and hearing loss.
Dr. Nancy Newhouse, who is the American Academy of Periodontology president, advises women to seek comprehensive periodontal evaluations during their pregnancies. Doing so can significantly decrease the chance of any adverse complications during pregnancy.
Men must take care, as well. Researchers at Inonu University in Turkey studied the effects of gum inflammation in males over 30 and found a great prevalence of erection problems in those patients.
Whatever your gender or age, the scientific findings are clear. Periodontal disease is a serious health concern, and good oral health is an important part of living a long and healthy life.
Optimize Your Dental Hygiene
Dr. Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, is a leading dentist in the Scottsdale area. At Scottsdale Dental Excellence, he has helped many patients dial in their routines that maintain healthy teeth and gums. Let Dr. Clark and our entire team help you. Contact us today at 480 585 1853 with any questions you may have and to schedule your initial consultation.