The relationship of periodontal disease to disorders elsewhere in the body has attracted a great deal of attention from the dental and medical professions, as well as from the public. Numerous studies have emphasized that the oral cavity, and the periodontal tissues specifically, can affect other tissues and organs. In essence, these studies have connected the mouth to the rest of the body and have resulted in physicians and nurses becoming more aware of diseases of the teeth, gums, and other structures in the oral cavity.
Many studies recently published in medical and dental literature suggest that the mouth truly is a window to the body. In fact many systemic diseases can manifest themselves orally well before any other signs or symptoms have become apparent medically. The oral cavity is affected by inflammation (in particular periodontal disease). The toxins produced by the oral bacteria that are responsible for periodontal disease can harm wherever they travel to in the body.
Scientist have observed a connection between oral health and heart conditions. In a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology found that patients who had suffered recent heart attacks had noticeably worse oral health compared to those patients with healthy hearts. Multiple studies, including a recent report in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology show a startling correlation between patients with periodontal disease and those with heart disease. The more severe the gum disease, the thicker and harder the walls of the arteries. This is even true for young adults with no symptoms of heart problems. There are increasing links between oral health and conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, preterm labor, osteoporosis, and even Alzheimer’s disease. A 2007 report in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that patients who had their periodontal disease treated emerged not only with healthier gums but with healthier endothelial function which is a measure of health or the lining of the blood vessels. The alarming fact is that more than 80% of adults aged 20-64 in the U.S. have some form of periodontal disease. Maintaining good oral hygiene habits and regular visits to the dentist to prevent and manage periodontal disease are becoming more important as it relates to one’s general health.
“We all think that cholesterol is important to heart disease. The health of your gums is a more important predictor of whether you will have a heart attack or not.”