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Investigating the Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health

by 6monthsmiles, on 11/28/16 2:21 PM

Gum disease affected nearly 6.5 million adults in the U.S. between 2009 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the same study showed that those over 65 years of age had an increased potential for periodontal disease. Oral health is directly related to overall health, and diseases originating in the mouth or in the gums may have the same risk factors as other chronic diseases. There is, however, a clear connection between low dental health levels and some chronic diseases.


Who is most affected by gum disease?

91% of those with heart disease that were included in a study conducted in 2004 also had severe gum disease, a staggeringly high number that lends credibility to a connection between the two. Those who are insufficiently maintaining oral health or failing to visit their dentist every 6 months are also at risk, and symptoms of budding dental problems may go unnoticed until they have caused significant damage. Elderly patients with existing health issues are at a higher risk for developing a dental disease, leading to the use of dentures and other mastication aids.

What diseases are linked to plaque buildup?

A link between COPD and gum disease has been found, suggesting that microorganisms caused by gum disease may infect the respiratory tract. The risk of developing this illness is exacerbated by external factors as well, including smoking, which has its own negative impact on dental health. Those with rheumatoid arthritis also experience a higher risk for developing gum disease and related periodontital issues. Bacterial endocarditis, an illness caused by enlargement of the walls of the heart and arteries, can also be connected, as the plaque buildup found on teeth is the same as that which causes heart attacks. Those experiencing dental issues may have excess plaque buildup in their arteries and, coupled with inherited risk and other environmental factors, can lead to heart attacks and strokes, as well as heart disease.

How can treating gum disease improve overall health?

Gum disease is often linked to other diseases because of the buildup of inflammatory substances that dental complications cause. These substances can worsen the effects of heart disease, diabetes, and even rheumatoid arthritis, and having them removed through dental therapy can improve the side effects of these chronic illnesses. Patients treated for dental issues were recorded as having up to 40% less accumulated healthcare costs over time than their untreated counterparts.

How can gum disease be treated?

Depending on the level and reach of gum disease, there are multiple ways gum disease can be treated to lead to uncomplicated health issues. Gingivectomy and gingivoplasty are two different surgeries that can restore gum health and negate deterioration, by removing infected tissues. The use of topical antiseptics can make infections reduce significantly if used in mild dental cases. Most correctional surgeries can be performed by your regular dentist, and a specialist is only required in extreme cases. Most of all, regular and thorough tooth care routines should be followed daily to remove the risk of dental disease. 

Most patients may assume that dental issues are separate from health issues, and let separate illnesses become exacerbated due to neglect. Oral health is directly related to overall health, and maintaining both at a proficient level can aid in keeping a healthy lifestyle. Because all parts of our bodies are inherently connected, overall wellness can lead to improvements in many aspects, and each part can let us know what we need to improve upon. Gum disease is not only an illness, it is a symptom of related disease and should be investigated as if it were the root problem to any chronic illness.


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