Not too many years ago, a medical doctor who suspected their patient was suffering from heart disease or diabetes probably would not have referred the patient to a dentist. Times have certainly changed over the past 10-15 years. Research has recently proven a strong connection between the health of your mouth and your overall health. This connection is called the Oral-Systemic Link. As a result, general physicians and dentists are working together to take a more holistic approach to their patients’ overall health.
Bacteria in the mouth, such as those that cause gum disease, can easily enter the bloodstream through breaks in the skin of the mouth and spread quickly throughout the body. When there is excessive bacteria in the pockets between inflamed gums and teeth, small breaks in the skin can occur easily from everyday activities, such as brushing, flossing, or even just from eating. Anytime there is a break in the skin of the mouth, bacteria in the mouth enters through that break and travels via the bloodstream throughout the body; it’s like opening the floodgates to inflammation. What we have learned over the years, is that the spread of this oral bacteria throughout the body can result in chronic systemic inflammation, which is linked to many other diseases, such as the following:
- Heart attack
- Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
- Pregnancy complications including preterm labor and low birth weight
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Respiratory Diseases such as pneumonia and COPD
By now you might be wondering, “how do you know if I have excessive bacteria in my pockets and small breaks in the skin of my mouth?” The number one sign is gums that bleed when you brush or floss. Proper oral hygiene, which includes daily brushing and flossing, will help reduce the bacterial load in your mouth. Having routine dental cleanings and exams every 3-6 months will help make sure that your home care is effective and ensure that your gums are staying healthy, therefore reducing overall inflammation in your body and protecting your overall health.
Dr. Nordquist has extensive training in the oral-systemic link and is available to answer any questions you may have. If you suffer from periodontal disease, or have been diagnosed with any of the above listed conditions, talk to Dr. Nordquist to figure out the right course of treatment for you.