Oral Disease and Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
The term “oral-systemic link” is becoming common as scientists and clinicians discuss the relationship between the condition of a person’s teeth and soft oral tissues and other physical conditions. Numerous articles have noted that problems with oral health are somehow related to chronic or inflammatory diseases or other problems. The list of maladies connected to oral disease is getting longer with every passing day.
Scientists who study heart disease and dental disease have agreed that periodontitis, or serious gum disease, is closely linked to heart disease and stroke.
The high levels of glucose in the blood characteristic of diabetes have long been associated with problems in the oral cavity—including cavities, gum disease, and dry mouth.
Fertility, conception and pregnancy.
Reproductive medicine has found that women with periodontitis may take longer to conceive, and periodontitis has been implicated in complications with pregnancy and premature birth. Also, a few studies have investigated a suspected link between periodontitis and erectile dysfunction in men.
Some researchers believe the connective tissues are damaged in a similar way in both gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
In some cases, bacteria of gum disease, such as P. gingivalis, may enter the bloodstream from the oral cavity and lead to cell damage. Scientists also think chronic illnesses are related to a common underlying cause—inflammation. The body’s response to irritation or foreign substances, including germs, is to dispatch white blood cells and cytokines, the large oxidizing molecules that kill the offending cells. Chronic inflammation results when the irritant or the response to the irritant does not go away, and oxidizing molecules circulate through the body breaking down cells by throwing off electrons and changing their molecular structure. In this way, inflammatory cytokines attack or degrade important cells or cell processes. Some of the additional diseases believed to be the result of chronic inflammation include allergy, anemia, arthritis, kidney disease, lupus, pancreatitis, and psoriasis. Even cancer, a more “complex” disease, with multiple causes and multiple manifestations, is thought to have a connection to chronic inflammation.
There’s little doubt that controlling gum disease is critical to overall health. Dentists, doctors and patients must be on the alert to eliminate the bacteria, but also to curtail the chronic inflammation. Increasingly, clinicians are using a combination of antibiotics for infection and antioxidant products to neutralize the oxidizing molecules in the gum tissues and oral cavity.