No doubt you have likely heard the phrase "oral systemic link" shot around in literature and on news shows, but what does it mean? The medical and dental community for years had separate thoughts about what the other practiced, and so was divided in assisting people in their health quests. Not so any longer.
What research has been suggesting over the past decade is that the health of the mouth tells us much about the health of the whole body. No longer should we treat each separately. Finding ways to bring health to one, can bring health to the other. Gingival inflammation (gingivitis) is often the first onset of diabetes. It is marked by bleeding and swelling gums, although it slips through the radar of the general population because most people don't clean in between their teeth. You see, this is where the disease starts. The tissue is more fragile and susceptible to disease in between the teeth. It's likely to have more bacteria stuck there because it can hide and not get dislodged with daily activity (eating, drinking, and talking.). The oral cavity can show disease within a few months, but it takes decades for it to show up in our bodies. Take notice to how your gums look. Ask your dental professional how your oral health is at your check ups. Talk to your hygienist, ask questions, and take their advice.
Even though diabetes is a serious disease, heart disease is another issue that has been linked to the oral cavity. Autopsies have shown bacteria that is normally found in the mouth in the heart, causing infections. Endocarditis is a serious and fatal infection. Inflammation in the gums happens because too many bacteria have made a home round the teeth. This initiates an immune response in which blood vessels open to allow white blood cells to start killing the bacteria. Just as easily as the white blood cells can work through to fight the bacteria, the bacteria also have access to enter the blood stream and flow to the heart. Thus, if the bacteria is able to stick around a little while, an infection can occur around the heart.
Pregnancy can be a factor in inflammation and gingivitis. Countless studies have linked oral infections, like severe gingivitis and active periodontal disease, for premature births. An autopsy performed on an infant that was still born revealed oral bacteria in the amnionic fluid causing infection and ultimately death. The mother had untreated periodontal disease.
Taking care of the gums and teeth is more than just brushing, which the only means in which most folks do. Diet places a part as well. Sugar is an inflammatory factor and the main source of food for bacteria. When you consume simple sugars, the bacteria begin to feast and then excrete acids that breakdown tooth enamel and cause the gums to become red. A high carbohydrate diet will leave behind more plaque that hardens into tartar, which is contributing factor to oral disease.
Using something to clean in between the teeth is actually more important than brushing. Why? Remember what I said about the tissue being more fragile in between? Bacteria want to make a home. A place to raise a family and build a community. You give them that opportunity when you don't clean in between the teeth. It's stuck there. It's not going anywhere. It's safe from chewing forces and getting swished around. As a matter of fact, it just has to sit and wait for food to come toward it in the saliva. It grabs what it wants to eat and lives on.
Do you get the picture? This is the oral-systemic link. Seek professional oral hygiene care regularly, and practice good oral hygiene at home. What you do at home makes the biggest impact!
Health-bite: practice excellent oral hygiene care for a healthy body