Why Oral Care Matters?

Why Oral Care Matters?

Did you know the health of your teeth and gums affects the health of the rest of your body? There is substantial evidence supporting a link between periodontitis (inflammation of the gum tissue around your teeth) and diseases of the kidneys and heart. Periodontitis is the most common chronic infection worldwide, and people with diabetes often have the worst cases of periodontitis. People with periodontitis, and especially people with both periodontitis and diabetes, are at very high risk of kidney and heart disease. Periodontitis leads to bone loss in the mouth and the loosening of the attachments which keep teeth in place. As attachments loosen, bacteria can invade the area around each tooth and lead to cavities.

The rates of both diabetes and periodontal disease increase according to some of the same risk factors. It is unknown whether periodontitis is an early sign of the development of diabetes or whether diabetes increases the rate of periodontal disease progression, or both, but it is known that periodontal disease makes it harder to manage glycemic levels. Also, studies show connections between the effects of periodontitis and complications due to diabetes within the body’s blood supply system. Scientists have noted that ineffective use of sugar in persons with diabetes increases the loss of soft and hard tissue surrounding the tooth, worsening periodontal disease. Therefore, a vicious cyclic relationship is likely to exist between diabetes and periodontitis. Among those with type 2 diabetes, protein in the urine, a reflection of kidney disease, increases with the severity of periodontal disease.

The exact methods by which periodontitis contributes to the worsening of kidney disease and heart disease are not certain, but one of the most widely supported theories is chronic inflammation that originates in the mouth with elevated levels of plaque and calculus (hardened plaque) leads to inflammation within blood vessels, including those that supply the heart and kidney, causing devastating damage to those organs. Some patients with albuminuria (protein in the urine) have presented with antibodies to gingival bacteria in their blood, supporting the theory that the inflammation which damages tissue in the mouth damages tissue in the kidneys and heart.

Since diabetes increases the likelihood of developing periodontitis and in return periodontitis worsens the complications associated with diabetes, it is important to take care of your oral health and do all you can to prevent periodontitis. Periodontitis begins as a less serious disease called gingivitis, which frequently occurs when patients fail to brush or floss daily and plaque collects on teeth and hardens, irritating gum tissue. Gingivitis can be completely reversed, beginning with a deep cleaning by a dental professional and then by daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth by the patient. Remember to tell your dentist if you do suffer from diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure to help your dentist choose the best treatment for you. Do your best to keep your biannual appointments with your dentist, as this will do wonders for your overall health!

About the author:
Katharine Dinwiddie is a research intern at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Phoenix, Ariz. She completedone year of dental school at Boston University before realizing that her real interest is the many ways that oral health connects to overall health. Katharine is now in medical training at Midwestern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Glendale, Ariz.

Additional Resources:
ADA: American Dental Association: Oral Longevity
The Canadian Dental Association : Your Oral Health : Caring for Your Teeth

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