Don’t Ignore Your Oral Health
If you value your oral health as well as your overall health, a periodontal evaluation is a good idea. Sometimes the only way to detect periodontal disease is through a periodontal evaluation. A periodontal evaluation may be especially important if you:
- Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis.
- Are you thinking of becoming pregnant?
- Have a family member with periodontal disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member.
- Have sores or irritation in your mouth that doesn't get better within two weeks.
- Notice any symptoms of periodontal disease, including:
- Red, swollen gums
- Gum tenderness and pain
- Gums that bleed during regular brushing and flossing
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Changes in the way teeth fit together when you bite
- Teeth that have shifted or loosened
- Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
- Gums separated from the teeth
Teeth that appear longer due to receding gums
Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to the clot formation. Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening if the walls of the coronary arteries due to the build up of fatty proteins. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks.
Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build-up, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries.
Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your dentist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. In one study that looked at the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
Preterm Low Birth Weight Babies
For a long time we've known that risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and drug use contribute to mothers having babies that are born prematurely at a low birth weight. Now evidence is mounting that suggests a new risk factor – periodontal disease. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.
More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. It appears that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor. Furthermore, data suggests that women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.
All infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby.
People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, probably because diabetics are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes. Those people who don't have their diabetes under control are especially at risk.
Research has emerged that suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a higher blood sugar. This puts diabetics at increased risk for diabetic complications. Thus, diabetics who have periodontal disease should be treated to eliminate the periodontal infection.
Bacterial respiratory infections are thought to be acquired through aspiration (inhaling) of fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs. These droplets contain germs that can breed and multiply within the lungs to cause damage. Research suggests that bacteria found in the throat, as well bacteria found in the mouth, can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract. This can cause infections or worsen existing lung conditions. People with respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, typically suffer from reduced protective systems, making it difficult to eliminate bacteria from the lungs.
Scientists have found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lung to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease. This discovery leads researchers to believe that these respiratory bacteria can travel from the oral cavity into the lungs to cause infection.
If you are at risk, or if you have a loved one at risk, please share with them this important information. We would love to have you as guests in our practice. If you don’t schedule a complete periodontal exam in our office, please get help somewhere.
Thanks for your time,
The staff at Associates in Family Dentistry