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Periodontitis – The Canary in the Coal Mine

Periodontitis – The Canary in the Coal Mine
May 9, 2014

Chances are good that a person prone to gum disease – especially those with moderate to severe periodontitis – may also have systemic medical conditions related to a compromised immune system.

At a recent meeting of the European Federation of Periodontology and the American Academy of Periodontology, a panel of experts reviewed the existing evidence linking periodontal disease to a person’s health. Their conclusions were published and made public in a special supplement release in April of this year. They concluded the following:

Image Simulating Healthy vs. Unhealthy Gums

Image Simulating Healthy vs. Unhealthy Gums

  • Diabetics -There exists emerging evidence that periodontal disease adversely affects glycemic control (sugar control) in people with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and raises blood glucose levels in non-diabetics, as well as promotes the development of new type 2 diabetics. It also causes complications in both type 2 and type 1 (juvenile) diabetics with their medications.
  • Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ACVD) – There is a strong association between periodontal bacteria and ACVD. Studies show the presence of live and viable periodontal bacteria in the lesions causing this disease. Periodontal treatment such as regular cleanings, deep scalings, laser decontaminations, and periodontal surgery reduces this systemic infestation, decreasing also the levels of inflammation and C-reactive protein that break down the inner linings of your blood vessels.
  • Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes – Although more modest than the above, epidemiologic studies show there may be possible associations between maternal periodontitis and low birth weight, preterm birth and preeclampsia.

Association or Causality? A multitude of study findings demonstrate that periodontal disease is associated with major health issues and especially Diabetes, ACVD and Pregnancy. However, these studies do not reveal whether one causes the other. What has been shown through several well-designed longitudinal studies is that periodontitis preceeds the other systemic conditions and that the chances good that periodontal pathogens contribute to the cumulative bacterial burden that subsequently causes these conditions to be expressed.

What This Means? There is ample evidence that utilizing good oral health habits along with regular maintenance visits at your dentist’s office are safe and effective ways to keep the level of bacteria lowered in our bloodstream, thus preventing infection and inflammation that are associated with major health diseases.

So… don’t forget to look for that canary when you visit your dentist!

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