More and more, scientists are finding out information about the close relationship between our oral and systemic health. This month, your team at Burlingame Dental Arts, your choice for pediatric dentistry in SW Portland, found an article in Medical News Today that provides a neat summary of connections recent research has found between the body and the mouth.
Link #1: Alzheimers
Based on 20 years of data, researchers at New York University found that low scores in cognitive function were correlated to gum inflammation in 152 subjects. While the study also took into account other health variables common to chronic or degenerative disease such as tobacco use and obesity, the link between gum inflammation and a low cognitive score was still apparent. In fact, the study found that individuals with inflamed gums were nine times more likely to score low on a test for mental agility than those with no inflammation.
In an even more unsettling study, researchers at the University of Central Lancashire studied the brains of patients with Alzheimers and without, learning that the patients with the disease also had the bacterium porphyromonas gingivalis living in their brain. Apparently, this motile species of bacteria was able to enter the brain either through the blood stream or via the roots of teeth, leading to nerves, and at last the brain.
Scientists also found that functional neurons in the brain were damaged by the brain’s own immune response to the bacterial invader, thus strengthening their hypothesis that gum inflammation could be linked with cognitive disabilities.
Link #2: Pancreatic cancer
Periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease that can lead to oral bone loss, has been strongly linked with pancreatic cancer— a type of cancer whose diagnosis is largely regarded as a death sentence– first by researchers from Harvard in 2007 and then by several studies since then.
At the moment, scientists aren’t sure whether gum disease is caused by pancreatic cancer or whether gum disease causes pancreatic cancer, but the strong correlative relationship is there. In the cohort study entitled Health Professionals Follow-Up, scientists at Harvard found that men with gum disease were 64% more likely to get pancreatic cancer than men with no history of gum disease.
Link #3: Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease is probably the most famous of systemic health disease linked with oral health problems. Bacteria in your mouth are able to travel to your heart via your blood when oral inflammation and infection leads to bleeding. Once in the blood, bacteria stick to platelets, convincing them to clot together and thus hide the bacteria from the body’s immune system. This shielding mechanism can interrupt blood flow, leading to heart attack or stroke.
There are many resources on cardiovascular disease and gum health. To learn more about how this can affect you, talk to your doctor and your dentist at Burlingame Dental Arts.
We know the information can sound grim, but really it’s not! Think about it– loss of cognitive function with aging, cardiovascular disease– these are big causes of mortality in the developed world, and what research like this does is allow us to prevent this type of disease.
Proper dental hygiene and regular visits to the one of our doctors at Burlingame Dental Arts not only keeps your smile bright and your breath fresh, but it can play a big role in keeping your heart healthy and your mind sharp. Together with you, we’re working for your whole health, for your life.
Schedule your next appointment with us now, and happy brushing!