Sunday, August 15, 2010

Better Oral Health Can Mean Better Overall Health

Poor oral health and lack of professional dental care can lead to plaque buildup and tartar formation. Without professional tartar removal and improved oral hygiene, this will progress to periodontitis (gum disease).

Recent evidence suggests a noticeable relationship with gum disease and its connection with heart disease, diabetes and among pregnant women, premature and low birth weight babies.

What is the association between oral health and your heart?
• Studies show that oral inflammation and bacteria associated with gum disease is associated with the development of heart disease.
• One way that harmful oral bacteria can cause damage is by directly entering the bloodstream through the infected gums. Infected gums are very vascular (have a good blood supply), which is why they can appear red and bleed easily. The bacteria are filtered out by the kidneys and liver, where they may colonize and create infections. The bacteria also can attach to the heart valves, causing vegetative endocarditis (infected heart valves).
• At the same time the gum infection causes an inflammatory reaction. “Inflammation” is the process by which the body responds to injury or an infection. Laboratory evidence and findings from clinical and population studies shows that inflammation leads to atherosclerosis This is the process in which fatty deposits build up in the inner lining of arteries.
• Both theories suggest that these conditions will lead to increased risk of blood clots and contribute to heart disease.

What is the association between diabetes and oral health?
• Diabetes affects your oral health, and your oral health affects your diabetes.
• Studies show that gum disease is more difficult to manage and /or eliminate in patients with diabetes.
• When your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled, the following oral conditions can develop: gum disease, tooth loss, thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth, and dry mouth.
• And recent evidence suggests that gum disease adversely affects a person with diabetes in controlling his/her blood sugar levels.

What is the association between pregnancy and oral health?
• When you are pregnant, the increased level of hormones affect the way gums react to irritants in plaque.
• Research in pregnant patients with gum disease suggests that when the plaque bacteria and inflammatory proteins enters the blood stream it contributes to the incidence of preterm, low birth weight babies.
If you have heart disease, diabetes, or are pregnant, maintaining good oral health is extremely important. Remember to:
• Make sure your dentist and hygienist know if you have a heart problem, diabetes, or any other medical condition.
• Have regular dental checkups
• Maintain good oral health by brushing and flossing twice a day
• Eat healthy, exercise and if you smoke, quit.