By: Shelagh McNally for Dental1
Many Americans are skipping their regular check-up with their dentist and putting themselves at risk for more serious diseases. Recent studies have shown there is a connection between healthy teeth and overall good health. People with periodontal problems such as gum disease are at higher risk for heart problems, stroke, diabetes and respiratory problems. Pregnant women with poor oral hygiene often have premature or low birth weight babies.
|Signs of periodontal disease, from American Dental Association|
You may not be aware that you have a periodontal infection since most of the time there is no pain. Call your dentist if you have any of the following symptoms:
Gums that bleed during brushing
Gums that are red, swollen or tender
Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
Persistent bad breath
Pus between the gums and teeth
Loose, separating teeth
A change in the way your teeth fit together
A change in the way your partial dentures fit together
Regular check-ups are important particularly because periodontal bacteria are invisible to the naked eye. It’s easy to develop problems since at any given moment, there are 300 to 500 kinds of bacteria in the human mouth. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, more than 75 percent of Americans have some form of gum disease – but only 60 percent know about the problem. Pain is not usually associated with a periodontal infection. The most common problems such as gum inflammation and ulcers are often just ignored.
Two studies recently published in the Journal of Periodontology have confirmed that periodontal infections can affect our health. One study completed at the Department of Periodontology and Oral Medicine, School of Dentistry, University of Belgrade, Serbia found a link between coronary artery disease and periodontal bacteria. Fifteen coronary patients were examined during coronary bypass surgery and periodontal pathogens were found in the arteries of nine out of the 15 patients examined.
A second study conducted at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Bnai-Zion Medical Center, Haifa, Israel looked at pregnant women suffering from preeclampsia and found a connection to periodontal infections. Preeclampsia is a hypertension disorder that often leads to other complications in the pregnancy, some of which are fatal. Researchers examined the placentas of 16 women who had delivered via caesarian due to complications from preeclampsia. They also took samples from 14 age-matched healthy pregnant women. Eight of the 16 placenta in the preeclampsia group tested positive for one or more periodontal infections as opposed to only two from the other groups.
Researchers from both studies agreed that while more research needs to be done, there is a connection between periodontal infections and other diseases.
“These studies are just a few in the growing body of evidence on the mouth-body connection. More research is needed to fully understand how periodontal bacteria travels from the mouth to other parts of the body as well as the exact role it has in the development of these systemic diseases,” said Dr. Preston D. Miller, DDS, and AAP president. “In the meantime it is important for physicians, dental professionals and patients alike to monitor the research in this area as it continues to grow so they can better work together to achieve the highest levels of overall health.”
Good dental care is crucial for good health. The American Dental Association recommends a regular check up with your dentist every six months.