Mouth-Body ConnectionGood Oral Hygiene is About More than Just Your Smile
A must read! Good oral hygiene is about more than just your smile. Learn how your oral health and the condition of your gums affect other aspects of your body, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Please click on the topics below to learn more about each one.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
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.
A study in the Journal of Periodontology found that poorly controlled type 2 diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease than well-controlled diabetics are.
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 high 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.
This recommendation is supported by a study reported in the Journal of Periodontology in 1997 involving 113 Pima Indians with both diabetes and periodontal disease. The study found that when their periodontal infections were treated, the management of their diabetes markedly improved.
Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Disease
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 to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup 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 periodontist 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.
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
The test came back and it’s positive & you’re pregnant. Your mind is rattled with excitement, and you have created a “to-do”. While your “to-do” list and questions continue to grow, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure an on-time and safe arrival of your most precious cargo yet.
You’ve probably heard a few old wives’ tales about pregnancy, including “A tooth lost for every child.” While it seems far-fetched, it actually is based loosely in fact. Your teeth and gums are affected by pregnancy, just as other tissues in your body. You may not be aware that the health of your gums may also affect the health of your baby-to-be.
How does pregnancy affect your teeth and gums?
About half of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. Conversely, a more advanced oral health condition called periodontal disease (a serious gum infection that destroys attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth) may affect the health of your baby.
Is periodontal disease linked to preterm low birth weight babies?
Studies have shown a relationship between periodontal disease and preterm, low birth weight babies. In fact, pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that’s born too early and too small. The likely culprit is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. Very high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.
What if I’m diagnosed with periodontal disease during pregnancy?
If you’re diagnosed with periodontal disease, your periodontist might recommend a common non-surgical procedure called scaling and root planing. During this procedure, your tooth-root surfaces are cleaned to remove plaque and tartar from deep periodontal pockets and smooth the root to remove bacterial toxins. Research suggests that scaling and root planing may reduce the risk of preterm births in pregnant women with periodontal disease. The added bonus is that the procedure should alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with pregnancy gingivitis, such as swelling and tenderness of the gums.
As you make your way through the”to-dos”, remember to check off a visit to the dentist or periodontist. This baby step benefits you and your unborn baby.
Premature Births: The answers can’t come soon enough!
According to the March of Dimes, premature births have soared to become the number one obstetric problem in the United States. Many premature babies come into the world with serious health problems. Those who survive may suffer life-long consequences, from cerebral palsy and mental retardation to blindness.
The March of Dimes has launched a $75 million, five-year campaign to raise public awareness and reduce rates of preterm birth and increase research to find the cause. Until all of the answers are in, the March of Dimes recommends the following to reduce the risk and/or effects of a premature birth:
- Consume a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of the B vitamin folic acid before and in the early months of pregnancy.
- Stop smoking.
- Stop drinking and/or using illicit drugs, or prescription or over-the-counter drugs (including herbal preparations) not prescribed by a doctor aware of the pregnancy.
- Once pregnant, get early regular prenatal care, eat a balanced diet with enough calories (usually about 300 more than a woman normally eats), and gain enough weight (25 to 35 pounds is usually recommended).
- Talk to your doctor about signs of premature labor, and what to do if you show any of the warning signs.
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