The belief of the mouth-body connection (oral systemic connection) is not new. Benjamin Rush, MD and a signer of our Declaration of Independence, noticed that people’s health improved after the extraction of diseased teeth. Today we know that infected teeth and gums can severely effect people’s health in ways that were once unthinkable.
People with periodontitis (gum infection with bone loss) are one and a half to two times more at risk for fatal cardiovascular disease. The bacteria from gum infections can easily enter the bloodstream and ultimately wind up in the heart.
People with non-insulin dependent diabetes (diabetes type 2) are three times more prone to develop destructive periodontal disease.
There is a direct correlation with patients with periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Periodontal disease precedes rheumatoid arthritis.
There is a clear relationship between obesity (upper body obesity) and periodontitis. Recent studies show how people with normal weight that exercise have a lower incidence of periodontitis and better blood glucose control.
There is a correlation between advanced Alzheimer’s disease and poor oral health. Scientist at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Central Lancashire in the UK, have discovered the presence of a substance (lipopolysaccharides) from the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease. This bacteria is present in people that have gum or periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease, tooth decay, uncleaned dentures, orthodontic and TMJ appliances may promote respiratory ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The microorganisms from gum and tooth infections can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Pregnant women due to hormonal changes are more prone to periodontal disease. Researchers at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Birmingham Alabama revealed pregnant women with periodontal disease are six times more likely to have a premature delivery and a low birth weight baby.
Researchers at Case Western University have found a link between periodontal disease and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This explains why people with HIV infections and periodontal disease have greater viral titters in the saliva than HIV patients with healthy gums.
A recent major discovery has exposed insights into a group of microorganisms called “microbial dark matter.” Thus named because these microbes are or were uncultivable in the laboratory. This microorganism has a role in periodontal inflammation, gastrointestinal and vaginal inflammatory disease.
Periodontal and tooth infections, and infections in general, can cause fatigue. I tell my patients that their overall energy level will improve after the treatment of periodontal disease and the removal of tooth infections. All of them tell me they have improved health and increased energy levels after the treatment of such conditions.
Many times dentists are the first health care provider that picks up on diabetes, leukemia, scurvy, measles, cancer and other diseases. General health and oral health share similar causal and behavior mechanisms. Maintaining a healthy mouth and regular dental examinations, dental cleanings and practicing daily oral hygiene is essential and goes hand in hand with overall health.