Periodontitis and Systemic Diseases



If you are an adult, chances are better than good that you currently do, once did or will in the future suffer from a bout of periodontal disease. It’s bad enough on its own, but if you think it will confine itself to your mouth, you could be in for a surprise.

Once the anaerobic bacteria behind chronic inflammatory oral disease get a foothold in your mouth, they thrive in the airless atmosphere, generating amines, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and other toxic elements. If the condition continues unchecked, these contaminants can enter the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on various body parts along the way.

The link between periodontitis and certain systemic diseases might come as a surprise. It often connects directly with the following conditions.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

The effect of periodontitis on a diabetic individual often amounts to a serious double whammy, for the oral disease can not only raise blood glucose levels but also increase the patient's resistance to insulin. The problem increases in severity with the realization that those who suffer from diabetes mellitus are twice as likely as non-diabetics to suffer from periodontal disease in the first place.

Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Problems

An apparent relationship exists between poor oral hygiene, respiratory infections and impaired lung functioning. The situation increases in severity in lockstep with a rise in dental decay. Since the mouth connects directly with the lungs through the trachea, pathogens can easily make the trip from the gums and teeth on downward.

Various studies have shown that those who fail to practice good oral hygiene are five times as likely as their counterparts to suffer from some form of chronic respiratory disease. On the other hand, people who reduced the quantity of pathogenic bacterial through proper habits of mouth and dental care could either lower the incidence of respiratory infection or prevent it entirely.

Periodontal Disease and Your Joints

If the slightest change in weather routinely makes your knees creak, your hips ache and your knuckles throb, your mouth could be the last place you'd think to look for answers. Nevertheless, there might be no better time to take a good look at your gums. The tendency of periodontitis to deregulate your body's inflammatory response could be behind your suffering, particularly when the problem in your mouth has progressed from mild to moderate or severe. A study presented at the European Congress of Rheumatology found a correlation between the number of teeth lost to a person's chances of gum disease and a subsequent risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Problems

Several epidemiological studies have linked periodontitis with various forms of circulatory problems. Researchers believe that inflammatory bacteria and proteins that enter the bloodstream from infected gum tissue can potentially lead to atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction and stroke.

Investigators have found that the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can potentially thicken blood vessel walls, thereby setting the stage for the appearance of potentially fatal cardiovascular events. In fact, one study found that pre-existing oral infections occurred more often in people who had suffered strokes than they did in a control group of people who had not.

Periodontal Disease and Obesity

A 2001 study at Japan's Fukuoka Health Promotion Center found a clear relationship between periodontal disease and upper-body obesity related to accumulated visceral fat. The blood's fat levels can increase as well with a negative impact on overall health in general. Some researchers blame the link on inflammatory pathways connecting the gums with the adipose tissue, but not all agree on which condition comes first.

Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy

Many people are unaware that pregnant women with periodontal disease are between seven and eight times more likely to enter labor prematurely or give birth to a low-weight infant. This suggests that pathogens connected with poor oral health can access the developing baby in some way. While the risk increases along with the severity of the disease, early periodontal therapy can lower it considerably.

Dental Disease and Systemic Health May Be a Two-Way Street

Some researchers suspect a bidirectional relationship between systemic diseases and periodontal disease. While the inflammatory process resulting from bacteria in the mouth can set the stage for various illnesses, some of these medical conditions may themselves lead to dental disease by affecting the immune system and thereby lowering the body's resistance to bacteria.

For this reason, the presence of any existing systemic disease can and should play a major role in your dentist’s choices when devising an effective treatment plan for your periodontal condition. To that end, your dental professional may want to discuss your therapeutic options with your regular physician.

In recent years, doctors and dentists have made excellent progress in understanding the connection between a person's systemic health and periodontal disease. If you suspect the presence of this silent condition in your own mouth, don't wait until the problem has spread throughout your body. Contact Dr. White for assistance today at 702-562-8833.