Your oral health is closely linked to your overall health, and can have an effect on the development of other medical conditions.  Research has shown that periodontal disease is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and pregnancy complications.  Dr. Randy Cockrell has provided some basic information on the connection between periodontal disease and your overall health.  To learn more, and to schedule your consultation with our dentist in Anaheim Hills, California, please call us today at 714-974-0949.  We will be happy to provide you with any additional information you may need.

Periodontal disease is a degenerative dental condition characterized by inflammation and infection of the gum tissue.  By halting the progression of periodontal disease and maintaining excellent oral hygiene, you can reduce the risk of developing severe gum disease, tooth and bone loss, and the chances of developing or exacerbating other serious illnesses.

Gum Disease & Diabetes

Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop infections, including gum disease.  Diabetes and periodontal disease are linked in several ways, and if either condition worsens it can often cause the other to worsen as well.  Some of the links between gum disease and diabetes include:

  • Increased levels of blood sugar – diabetes is characterized by too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. These elevated sugar levels increase the amount of time the body has to function with high blood sugar, and make it more difficult for diabetics with periodontal disease to control their glucose levels.  Additionally, the high sugar levels in the mouth act as a food source for the bacteria that contribute to gum disease.
  • Blood vessel thickening – blood vessels deliver nutrients and remove waste products from tissues. When the blood vessels thicken due to diabetes, harmful waste remains in the mouth, and weakens the resistance of gum tissue, leading to infection and gum disease.
  • Smoking and tobacco use – the use of tobacco products does significant damage to your oral health at many different levels. It slows down the healing process and vastly increases the risk of developing gum disease.  If a patient is a diabetic who smokes, the risk is even higher, with diabetic smokers age 45 and older being 20 times more likely to develop periodontal disease.
  • Poor oral hygiene – it is essential for diabetics to maintain the highest levels of oral health possible. If you do not brush and floss, harmful bacteria will ingest the excess sugar between the teeth and colonize below the gum line.  This will make the metabolic problems experienced by diabetics even worse.

If you are a diabetic, make sure that you continue to visit your dentist regularly for dental exams and cleanings.  Your dentist will be able to determine your risk of developing periodontal disease, and if necessary will collaborate with other doctors to ensure that both your diabetes and your gum disease are being managed as effectively as possible.

Gum Disease, Heart Disease, & Stroke

Research has found that patients with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, and that oral infection is a risk factor for stroke.  Coronary heart disease occurs when the walls of the coronary arteries become progressively thicker due to a buildup of fatty proteins.  This causes the heart to work significantly harder to pump blood to the rest of the body due to a lack of oxygen.  Sometimes, patients with coronary heart disease experience blood clots which further obstruct the normal flow of blood and reduces the oxygen and vital nutrients the heart needs to function properly, eventually leading to a heart attack.

Factors that link heart disease, stroke and periodontal disease include:

  • Oral bacteria affect the heart – there are many different strains of periodontal bacteria. Some of these strains can enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the heart blood vessels.  This contributes to clot formation, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
  • Inflammation – inflammation in the gum tissue elevates the white blood cell count and the high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels, which are closely linked to the progression of heart disease.
  • Infectious susceptibility – individuals with high levels of oral bacteria may have a weaker immune system and inflammatory response. This can cause specific vascular effects that contribute to the onset of heart disease.

Your dentist or periodontist and cardiologist may collaborate to provide treatment for patients with gum disease and heart disease.  If you have periodontal disease, seek immediate treatment.  Your dentist will conduct a thorough examination and provide treatments to manage your gum disease and halt the spread of the disease.

Gum Disease and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by bone fragility, low bone mass, and a decrease in bone mineral density.  It is most common in post-menopausal women.  In 1995, a study conducted at the University of New York in Buffalo concluded that post-menopausal women with osteoporosis were 86% more likely to also develop gum disease.  Research indicates the following connections between the two conditions:

  • Estrogen deficiency – estrogen deficiency accompanies menopause and speeds up the progression of oral bone loss and attachment loss (fibers and tissues which keep teeth stable).
  • Lower mineral bone density – the inflammation from periodontal disease makes weakened bones more prone to break down. This is why periodontitis is often more progressive in patients with osteoporosis.

Both osteoporosis and periodontal disease are much less dangerous when diagnosed early.  Your dentist and doctor will work together to make sure that both diseases are effectively controlled.  Treatments for diagnosis and managing osteoporosis and gum disease may include routine dental X-rays, estrogen supplements, and regular assessments of risk factors.

Gum Disease & Respiratory Disease

Periodontal disease can worsen respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and may play a role in the contraction of pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema.  Generally, respiratory infections occur due to the inhalation of fine droplets from the mouth into the lungs, which allows the bacteria in the mouth to enter other areas of the body.

Links between gum disease and respiratory disease include:

  • Bacterial spread – the oral bacteria that cause periodontal disease can easily be drawn into the lower respiratory tract. Once they colonize in the lungs, it can cause pneumonia and other serious respiratory conditions, such as COPD.
  • Low immunity – people with chronic respiratory problems suffer from low immunity, which allows oral bacteria to embed itself in the gum line without being challenged by the body’s immune system. This accelerates the progression of periodontal disease and increases the patient’s risk of developing a respiratory disease.
  • Tobacco use – Smoking and other tobacco use is one of the leading causes of COPD and other respiratory conditions. It also damages the gums and compromises oral health by slowing the healing process, accelerating attachment loss, and causing gum pockets to grow deeper.
  • Inflammation – the inflammation in the gums and other oral tissues caused by periodontal disease can contribute to the inflammation of the lung lining, limiting the amount of air that can pass to and from the lungs.

Your dentist and doctor will work together to control both respiratory conditions and gum disease.  There are a number of surgical and non-surgical options available for treatment, depending on the condition of the teeth, gums, and jaw.

Gum Disease & Pregnancy

When pregnant, women experience many hormonal changes, which increase the risk of developing gum disease.  Periodontal disease in expectant mothers exposes the unborn child to a number of risks, including preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight.  If you are pregnant, make sure to visit your dentist regularly to ensure that you maintain good oral health and receive any treatments you may need.

Connections between pregnancy and periodontal disease include:

  • Prostaglandin – periodontal disease elevates the levels of prostaglandin in mothers who have a more advanced stage of the disease. Prostaglandin is a labor-inducing compound found in one of the oral bacteria strains associated with periodontitis, and can cause premature birth and low birth weight in babies.
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) – this protein, also linked to heart disease, is associated with adverse prenancy outcomes, including preeclampsia and premature birth. Periodontal infections elevate CRP levels and amplify the body’s inflammatory response to cause these and other problems.
  • Bacteria spread – bacteria which colonize in gum pockets can easily travel through the bloodstream and affect other parts of the bodies, including the internal mammary glands and coronary arteries.

Your dentist will be able to provide information and treatment about gum disease and its effects on pregnancy to reduce risks that may affect your child’s health.

For more information about the connection between oral and systemic health, and to schedule a consultation with Dr. Randy Cockrell, please contact our practice at 714-974-0949.