Oral Health in Connection to Your Whole Body
A series of the latest medical reports show that the health of your gums, teeth and mouth my have a significant impact on your overall health. Gum Disease is linked with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pregnancy problems, and now a recent report from Harvard researchers has found a powerful connection between poor gum health and one of the deadliest diseases, pancreatic cancer.
"People think of gum disease as being in their mouth," said Dominique Michaud, assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. "But when it gets severe, it's not just in the mouth. It's probably in the entire body."
A person suffering from gum disease has bacteria that not only causes gums to become inflamed, but also can invade other parts of the body, including the cells in coronary arteries. Several studies have linked heart disease to chronic inflammation in the coronary arteries which carry blood to the heart muscle. Researchers have found that chronic periodontitis (advanced gum disease) creates massive inflammation throughout the body. It is this inflammatory response that is thought to be the link between periodontitis and heart disease.
Diabetes is one of the only proven causes of gum disease. Diabetes triggers a reaction in the blood which leads to the premature breakdown of collagen, the main component of gum tissue. This causes diabetics to have more severe breakdown of gum tissue than non-diabetics. Recent studies have shown that treatment of gum disease will help to control sugar levels, thus helping to control the diabetes.
The same health problems resulting from chronic inflammation of the gum tissues may cause premature rupture of the membranes during pregnancy leading to pre-term birth. Approximately 18% of all pre-term births may be attributable to the presence of gum disease in the mother.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and little is known of what causes it. According to a recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, keeping gums healthy can help deter pancreatic cancer, proposing that chronic infection of gum tissues may trigger inflammation throughout the body fueling the growth of this cancer. The Harvard study says that men with a history of gum disease were at 64% higher risk for pancreatic cancer.
HOW TO HELP YOURSELF:
Approximately 35% of adults have some form of gum disease, and about one-third of the population may have a genetic predisposition to the problem. Brushing and flossing regularly can help prevent gum disease but not always, and it is very important to see a dental professional for regular exams. Research is mounting to suggest that treating gum disease may lower the risk for heart and other health problems associated with poor periodontal health.