Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity — these are all major health issues that are tearing at the fabric of the health of our country. The most prevalent disease in the world — periodontal disease — has a proven association with these serious health conditions.
Periodontal disease affects some 47% of Americans. Periodontal disease is defined as gum and bone loss around a tooth or teeth. Bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, abscesses, missing teeth and gum recession are some of the signs of periodontal disease. A dentist or dental hygienist measures gum health by probing around each tooth with a periodontal probe every year.
This evaluation is very important because the symptoms of periodontal disease usually go unnoticed until the disease gets to a moderate or advanced stage. Mild periodontal disease is sometimes treated by a dentist, and moderate to severe forms are referred to a periodontist for more advanced treatment and maintenance. Early detection of periodontal disease is critical for preventing tooth and bone loss.
Inflammation, the root cause of most systemic diseases, is what oral bacteria take advantage of to wreak havoc on the body. In the case of cardiovascular disease, inflammation in the body causes tears in the lining of blood vessels, thereby allowing oral bacteria to enter the vessel walls.
When enough bacteria enter the blood vessel walls, plaques form atheromas, creating a condition called atherosclerosis. This blocks blood vessels, eventually leading to heart attacks. Significant research has shown oral bacteria in 67% of cardiac atheromas. In the case of those suffering from heart attacks, the vast majority have atheromas full of oral bacteria (typically found in the mouth only). These bacteria can enter the bloodstream with tooth brushing, but in much higher numbers with gum disease and abscesses from infected teeth and gums.
Other conditions with a proven and direct association to periodontal disease include the following:
- Respiratory Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Pre-Term, Low-Birth-Weight Babies
- Joint Infections
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Abscesses of the Brain, Lungs, Kidneys and Major Organs
- Alzheimer’s and Other Cognitive Diseases
The good news is that regular dental visits and good preventive care at home with a plan customized by a dentist, dental hygienist, and/or periodontist can significantly reduce the effects of these diseases attributed to gum disease. Cleanings every three months are very helpful, even though insurance companies only want to pay twice per year.
An abundance of research has proven that after cleanings, oral bacteria cannot re-establish to initiate disease again for a three-month time period. Cleanings every three months, therefore, significantly reduce the progression of disease in most individuals. Deep cleanings, LASER therapy and corrective surgery are current methods of treating gum disease. Partnering with a dentist and dental hygienist can ensure that teeth are disease free.
Important statistics to consider:
- Alzheimer’s Disease: In a 2016 study, those with severe gum disease had a 70% greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, loss of cognitive abilities occurred six times faster in those with periodontal disease.
- Breast Cancer: In a study of nearly 74,000 women, nonsmokers with periodontal disease had a 14% greater chance of developing breast cancer, and that number jumped to 36% for former smokers or current smokers.
- Pancreatic Cancer: Those with periodontal disease had a 50% greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer.
- In European studies, those with fewer than 20 teeth exhibited a 2.8 times greater chance of a 7-year mortality rate, and 30% greater chance of a 17-year mortality rate.
Take the opportunity to improve wellness. Treat the mouth like any other organ. Have regular checkups at a dentist’s or periodontist’s office. If any of the above symptoms are present, take action immediately. Referrals are not necessary to see a periodontist, and a board-certified periodontal specialist will partner with a medical and dental team to give the best chance for living the healthiest, longest life possible. Each of us has only one life — live it well.
Bio of Dr. Jason Stoner
Dr. Jason C. Stoner is a board-certified periodontist and dental implantologist in Central Ohio with office locations in Dublin, New Albany, Chillicothe, Newark and Springfield, Ohio.
Dr. Stoner is an internationally- recognized leader in the fields of surgical and nonsurgical periodontics, dental implants, and facial esthetics, comprehensive care, laser dentistry and business concepts in the field of dentistry. Stoner Periodontic Specialists accepts patients with and without a referral.