Your Gums and Your Health

In the last five years it has become increasingly apparent that periodontal health can have a major impact on a patient’s general health. With periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection, there is a higher incidence of bacteria in the bloodstream, which circulates to the various organs of the body. These bacteria may also bind with blood platelets, the clotting components of blood, causing an increase in clot formation in arteries and heart tissues. Patients with periodontal disease may be at greater risk for the following diseases:

Cardiovascular Disease – It is thought that chronic periodontal disease may increase a person’s likelihood of having a fatal heart attack by nearly TWO fold. Persons with periodontal disease are also more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Increased clot formation seems to be the cause of the higher risk.

Stroke - Those with adult periodontitis seem to have an increased risk for stroke, possibly due to increased clot formation..

Diabetes - It has been known for years that diabetics have a higher incidence of periodontal disease than non-diabetics. Recently, however, it has been shown that diabetics with periodontal disease have a more difficult time in controlling blood sugar levels than those with healthy gums. Untreated periodontal disease results in elevated blood glucose levels, which increases the diabetic’s risk for other systemic complications, such as kidney and heart disease. Treatment of periodontal disease has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels.

Pre-term or Low Birth Weight Babies – Recent research has shown chronic periodontal disease can increase the risk of premature, low birth weight infants by SEVEN times. This risk factor seems to be even greater than that posed by tobacco or alcohol. Pre-term, low birth weight babies are 30 times more likely to die, have a much higher incidence of congenital deformities, and are much less likely to be healthy. The American Academy of Periodontology recommends a periodontal examination as part of routine prenatal care.

Respiratory Infections - While research is ongoing, it has been shown that the same bacteria found in periodontal disease may cause pulmonary disease. One study found that people with advanced periodontal disease are 4.5 times more likely to have a chronic respiratory disease. It has been suggested that dental plaque buildup creates a source of bacteria that can be inhaled into the lungs, leading to pulmonary diseases.

In summary, in order to maintain good general health, you must maintain good periodontal health.

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