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Oral Health- For Your Entire Body?

November 17, 2016

I happened to be in a government office building recently around the lunch hour. What struck me was how many employees were openly carrying toothbrushes up and down the hallway, apparently going to or coming from a post lunch “floss and brush” session. It made me reflect on the behavioral adaptive changes that were being picked up by the ever – evolving, health conscious society of the current day. Could it truly be that healthy gums, straight and cavity-free teeth, have become a priority not just for beauty, but also health reasons?

The relationship between poor oral health and systemic diseases has been increasingly recognized over the past two decades. Indeed, the clichés “You cannot have good general health without good oral health” and “The mouth is part of the body” are gaining momentum fueling various scientific investigations. A large number of epidemiological studies have now established a link between poor oral health and various systemic diseases.

It seems like it would be a long and arduous route from the oral cavity all the way to the innards of the body to wreck havoc with the our vital organs. It appears that the bacteria residing in the pockets around the evoke the body’s defence mechanism against the “germs”. These defence molecules set up a systemic inflammatory response via the blood stream, thereby affecting various organs. Therefore, treating inflammation in the oral cavity may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.

In diabetics (particularly Type II), periodontal infectons make it more difficult to control their blood sugar, putting them at an increased risk for diabetic complications. Studies have also confirmed the association between periodontal disease and heart disease. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease. Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. Respirologists have found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. It appears that patients with periodontal disease experience twice as many respiratory infections as healthy patients. Researchers have also definitively concluded that there is a link between periodontal disease and preterm delivery low birth weight babies in women over 25. As if all of the above was not enough, it was found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancer.

The relationship between poor oral health and systemic diseases has become a significant issue, such that adult oral health can no longer be ignored in overall health strategies. It truly warms my heart that people do stay informed and are getting ahead with preventive measures, as simple as brushing and flossing after the meals, even before science irrevocably proves what common sense has been insinuating.

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