Oral health: A window to your overall health

At DC Perio & Implants we want you to know that your oral health is more important than you might realize. We strive to educate our patients how the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health. The state of your teeth affects your overall health, with gum disease linked to lots of health problems in other parts of the body.

Did you know that gum disease isn’t just bad news for your teeth, it’s also linked to serious health problems in other parts of your body?

Gum disease may increase your risk of all kinds of other health complications, including stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Gum disease has even been linked with problems in pregnancy and dementia.

Gum disease dangers

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It’s mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up. In some people who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn’t clear up properly. The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.

Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body?

What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?

Like other areas of the body, your mouth contains with bacteria mostly harmless. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause disease.

Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Also, certain medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.

Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases. And certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

What conditions can be linked to oral health?

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart. Patients with predisposition to endocarditis are screened and diagnosed properly and seen at DC Perio & Implants only with therapy through antibiotic pre-medication therapy.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Due to findings of bacteria that are specific to the oral cavity in clogged arteries, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause. It has also been shown that those with a preexisting heart condition can be in danger of further cardiac problems after developing gum disease. At DC Perio & Implants we highly recommend that that patients predisposed or with a history of cardiovascular disease to contact us at DC Perio & Implants.
  • Stroke. Further research by scientists in the field have found an association between periodontal disease and suffering a stroke. While the relationship, similar to heart disease, is currently unclear, research has found that those who suffer a stroke were more likely to have an oral infection than those who are not victims of a stroke.
  • Diabetes. Those already diagnosed with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than those who do not have diabetes. Diabetes makes it easier for people to succumb to infection, and the more out of control their diabetes is the more likely they are to contract a gum disease. Additional research suggests that the relationship is a two way street. Periodontal disease can lead to difficulties in those with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels because severe gum disease can increase blood sugar levels.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications. Extensive research during the last thirty years have indicated that Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. Therefore, it is important for expecting mothers with signs of gum infection to see a periodontist.
  • Pneumonia. Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. If you have been suffering from frequent occurrences of pneumonia we highly recommend to evaluate your periodontal health.

Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:

  • Diabetes. By reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control and research has indicated improving HbA1C values through periodontal care. At DC Perio & Implants we recommend periodontal screening for all patients suffering from diabetes.
  • HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis. This bone-weakening disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
  • Osteoporosis Leads to Bone Loss in the Jaw. Osteoporosis causes bone loss throughout the body, including in the jaw. This bone loss can lead to the loss of teeth, as the strength of the bone that works to support teeth and hold teeth in place grows weaker. Without this strong foundation, tooth loss and gum disease become a stronger possibility.

Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome). Tell your periodontist about the medications you take and about changes in your overall health, especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene daily.

  • Obtain a periodontal evaluation by a Periodontist
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit food with added sugars.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings with you periodontist.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

Also, contact your periodontist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

DC Perio & Implants Can Treat Gum Disease

Taking care of your mouth, teeth and gums is taking care of your body. Decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other ailments by scheduling regular periodontal exams with DC Perio & Implants. Our periodontists will look over your mouth for any signs of gum disease, and if they do find periodontal disease they will treat it immediately.

If you have questions about your gums or oral health, give us a call today at (202) 659-3500.

Armin Abron, DDS, MS


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