It wasn’t so long ago that most dentists scoffed at the notion that oral and systemic health are related. After all, they were trained – and still are largely trained – to be mouth mechanics, specialists at repairing problems in isolation, with little consideration for how that might affect the rest of the body.
Now, a week doesn’t go by without new research shedding even more light on the oral-systemic connection, particularly the link between gum disease and other inflammatory conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Consider a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Analyzing data from more than 1500 Japanese seniors, the authors found that
Tooth loss is associated with an increased risk of all-cause dementia and [Alzheimer’s disease] in the Japanese population.
Though you might think of tooth loss as something that goes right along with old age, it isn’t inevitable. Most tooth loss is the result of disease. And periodontal disease is extremely common among seniors. More than 70% of Americans age 65 or older have it – and nearly half of all adults over 30.
As gum disease progresses, it destroys both the soft tissues and the underlying bone that support the teeth. With bone loss, the teeth loosen in their sockets. Eventually, they fall out (if they’re not extracted first).
So it’s not that missing teeth cause problems like dementia. Rather, its the underlying disease process.
And that infection does not stay confined to the mouth. Pathogens travel through the circulation and can wreak havoc at sites far away from the mouth. (Oral bacteria have been found in the heart, for instance, and in knees.)
And if the biological terrain is polluted and disordered, related health problems become more likely.
This is why a preventive approach – not just against gum disease but all illness and dysfunction – is so crucial. A healthy, well-ordered terrain is your best insurance against chronic illness.
After all, it’s what dictates how illness develops or how health is sustained.
Image via NOttingham University Hospitals
Originally from Gary M. Verigin, DDS, inc.