The Mouth/Body ConnectionKenosha Dentist Appointment

Cortisol works to reduce inflammation in the body; however if the inflammation becomes chronic, the level of cortisol continues to soar, wreaking havoc on the body’s immune system. The body’s response to unchecked infection (like gum disease) can lead to many other problems like:

  • increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses,
  • increased risk of cancer
  • tendency to develop food allergies
  • increased risk of GI problems (stomach, small intestine, colon)
  • increased risk of autoimmune disease

Dr. Michael A. Walsh diagram of health teeth vs. Periodontitis

Diabetes and Gum Disease

With gum disease, cortisol provides the body with glucose (sugar) and thwarts the effect of insulin. Elevated cortisol due to chronic infections (like gum disease) continues to produce high levels of blood sugar in the body and to thwart the work of insulin, leading to chronically increased blood sugar levels. The body remains in a general insulin‐resistant state.

The relationship between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways: Gum disease makes it more difficult to control one’s blood sugar; and, someone with diabetes tends to develop gum disease more easily than others. It’s a vicious cycle which requires intervention:

The cortisol in gum disease makes it more difficult for someone with diabetes to control blood sugar levels. On the other hand, the increased blood sugar in diabetes (as well as well as the fact that diabetes slows circulation and reduces the body’s resistance to infection), makes diabetics far more susceptible to gum disease. If untreated, this gum disease will continue to get worse and could lead to bone loss around the teeth.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Dr. Michael A. Walsh diagram of gum disease and relation to heart disease

Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease  and heart disease. While the research is not conclusive, it suggests that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease. Gum disease can also make existing heart conditions worse.

Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. Until researchers are sure, the best defense is to adopt good oral health habits.

Cancer and Gum Disease 

Gum disease is associated with a small, but significant, increase in overall cancer risk. Gum disease might indicate a more susceptible immune system or might directly affect cancer risk.

Research published in the June 2008 issue of The Lancet Oncology found that those with a history of gum disease are 14% more likely to develop cancer than those with healthy gums. In fact, researchers uncovered that men with periodontal disease may be:

  • 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer
  • 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer
  • 30% more likely to develop blood cancers

Researchers have also found that people diagnosed with head and neck cancers were much more likely to have chronic periodontitis (advanced gum disease) than people without cancer. In fact, each millimeter of bone loss due to chronic periodontitis increased the chances of head and neck cancer by four times the normal rate!

Pregnancy and Gum Disease

Dr. Michael A Walsh stork image for Pregnancy and gum disease

About half of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. Conversely, a more advanced oral health condition called periodontal disease may affect the health of your baby.

Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born premature. More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. It appears that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of body fluids that induce labor. Furthermore, data suggests that women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Dr. Michael A Walsh image of Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA patients are more likely to have periodontal disease compared to those who do not suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Compared to people with mild or no periodontitis surrounding two or three teeth, people with moderate to severe gum disease are nearly three times more likely to develop  rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the study shows. Periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis have very similar pathologies,” said Robert Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., editor of the Journal of Periodontology. “Damage caused by the immune system and chronic inflammation are central to both diseases.”

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University found that people who suffer from gum disease and also have a severe form of rheumatoi arthritis, reduced their arthritic pain, number of swollen joints and the degree of morning stiffnes when they cured their dental problems.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects joints symmetrically (on both sides equally), may initially begin in a couple of joints only, and most frequently attacks the wrists, hands, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankes. “- A.D.A.M”

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