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Peridontics & Your Health

Periodontal Disease: Its Effects on your general health

If you have periodontal disease, you may have more to risk than loss of your natural teeth. Medical and dental professionals have long suspected that oral infections can have an adverse effect on other organs of the body. Recent studies investigating the association between periodontal disease and other health problems and advanced medical and dental technology have greatly expanded our understanding of various disease processes. From the insight provided by these studies and technologies, we now recognize that periodontal, or gum, disease may be a potential risk factor for many health problems. Periodontal disease may put you at increased risk of such diseases as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory tract diseases. And, if you are a pregnant woman, you may also be at risk of pre-term delivery of a low-birth-weight baby. Obviously, these health problems are of concern to all health care professionals, including periodontists.

Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease

Several recent studies have demonstrated a relationship between periodontal disease and infectious endocarditis, coronary artery disease and stroke. Researchers believe that if you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, the normal act of brushing your teeth or chewing can allow bacteria, or germs, to enter your bloodstream. These bacteria are then carried via the bloodstream through the body. They attach themselves to fatty acids and build up on arteries, or they contribute to the formation of clots. Researchers have found that if you have periodontal disease, you will be twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than a person who is free of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, to date, intervention studies have not been performed. Since there are many confounding variables/risk factors which may predispose a patient to coronary artery disease this association is of great interest, but compelling evidence is not yet present.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

The link between periodontal disease and diabetes has been well documented. Research has found that periodontal disease is more prevalent in diabetics than in non-diabetics, and that diabetics lose more teeth. This prevalence is most likely due to the fact that diabetics are more susceptible to infections. Recent research has shown that periodontal disease can negatively impact diabetic control, making it more difficult to regulate sugar/insulin levels. Consequently, it is important that patients with diabetes receive treatment for any periodontal problems.

What effects does periodontal treatment have on diabetes?

For years, physicians and dental professionals have known of the two-way relationship between diabetes and periodontal health. Because periodontal disease is an infection, it can cause changes in levels of blood sugar. If you are a diabetic and you have periodontal disease, these alterations may make it difficult for you to control your blood sugar level. Studies have also shown that the prevalence of periodontal disease is greater in diabetics than in non-diabetics, probably because diabetics are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, diabetics also lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Implied in these study findings is that controlling your periodontal disease may help you control your diabetes and vice versa. Following periodontal treatment, many diabetics show a reduction in their need for insulin due to resolution of the periodontal infection. Furthermore, long-term studies show that control of periodontal disease is an important factor in the stability and progression of diabetes.

What if I have questions?

Please feel free to discuss with Dr. Zablotsky any questions you may have regarding the link between diabetes and periodontal disease. Obviously, if you are diabetic, it is important that you provide us with this information at your appointment. If you are experiencing difficulty controlling your diabetes, we will be happy to work with your physician toward stabilization of your sugar levels.

What about my friends who have diabetes?

Nearly 16 million Americans have diabetes. Please feel free to share this valuable information with any friends and family members who may find it beneficial. We will be happy to answer any questions they may have.

Respiratory tract diseases and periodontal health

A growing body of research is beginning to show a new risk factor for respiratory tract infection—periodontal disease. If you have periodontal disease, you may be at increased risk of respiratory tract disease. For years, health care and dental professionals have known that health problems decrease the immune function in the geriatric population. Therefore, if you are elderly, you are at risk of the development of respiratory tract diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia. Current thinking based on scientific findings is that you can acquire bacterial respiratory tract infections by aspiration or inhalation of fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs, or the upper respiratory tract. These droplets contain bacteria that originate in the oral cavity. Once in the lungs, these bacteria can breed and multiply to cause infection such as pneumonia. Recent research suggests that bacteria found in the throat as well as bacteria found in the mouth can also be drawn into the lower respiratory tract, causing infections or worsening existing lung conditions. If you have a respiratory tract disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you will have reduced protective systems that make it difficult to eliminate bacteria from the lungs. More research is being conducted to further elucidate the association between periodontal disease and respiratory tract infections.