tooth and heart in heartbeat

Of course, keeping all of your natural teeth is just the most obvious reason for making sure your gums stay healthy. Equally important, though, is supporting your overall health.

Several decades of scientific research has made it clear that gum disease is related to a host of systemic health problems. These include stroke, heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), cognitive decline, and pregnancy complications.

Oral bacteria have been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and stroke victims, for instance, and in the diseased blood vessels of cardiovascular patients. They’ve been found in the joints of RA patients.

Such infections trigger chronic inflammation – an ongoing response to infection or injury, and another common denominator of these conditions.

This perio-systemic connection was the subject of a recent study in Yonsei Medical Journal, in which 718 Korean adults were tested for metabolic risk factors and assessed for tooth loss. Those factors include central obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol.

When at least three of these five factors are present, it indicates metabolic syndrome – and a higher than average risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

The research team found that patients who had at least one metabolic risk factor were much more likely to have experienced tooth loss than those who were metabolically healthy. This was especially the case for older women (age 50 to 64).

“Adult tooth loss,” wrote the authors,

is primarily due to periodontal disease caused by alveolar bone destruction in the periosteal tissue of patients with elevated levels of various inflammatory markers. It has been suggested that periodontitis elevates the levels of systemic cytokines, further enhancing lipolysis, which in turn may lead to an increase in circulating triglycerides. Inflammation in periodontal tissues increases inflammatory cytokine, bacterial, and lipopolysaccharide levels and shares some common risk factors with MS [metabolic syndrome], including hyperglycemia, obesity, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. Periodontitis has been considered to be a risk factor for MS and can modify the disease pathway.

Indeed, other research has suggested that the relationship between periodontitis (advanced gum disease) and diabetes is “a two-way relationship…with diabetes increasing the risk for periodontitis, and periodontal inflammation negatively affecting glycaemic control.”

According to research recently presented at the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions in San Francisco, when glucose control is poor, periodontitis is almost guaranteed. Nearly 97% of uncontrolled diabetes patients with microvascular complications such as neuropathy were found to have periodontitis, compared with 75% in the well-controlled group.

The condition of their periodontal tissues were also found to be the worst overall.

Poor glucose control, in turn, may affect the composition of oral microbiota, according to other research presented at the same meeting. Analyzing data from more than 1000 patients, scientists found more decay-causing bacteria in the mouths of diabetic patients. Their saliva was also less able to neutralize acids such as those generated by the bacteria.

Here at Green City Dental, one of the essential tests we use is OralDNA, which gives us a clear picture of the microbial ecology of your mouth, identifying specific pathogens and genetic markers. This, coupled with information from your medical history and comprehensive dental exam let us truly customize the care we provide you.

The test is simple, involving just a small saliva sample. Here’s what happens next:

Even if you don’t have active gum disease, Oral DNA results can also alert us to risk factors to keep an eye on, so you can keep gum disease from developing.

And to our way of thinking, that’s even better – prevention. It may sound a little funny for a dental office to say, but the best dentistry really is the least dentistry, for the best teeth are your natural teeth.

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