In recent years there has been a lot of buzz about the oral systemic link, but what exactly does that mean? Recent scientific literature suggests that there is a strong link between oral disease and system disease (body wide) as well as other medical conditions. This means that the health of you gums, teeth, and jawbones has a significant impact on your overall health.
It has been estimated that three out of four people have signs of mild periodontal disease – the evil gingivitis (inflamed gum tissues) – with as many as 30% of those having the disease in the more severe chronic form. These infections are bacterial in nature.
Studies show that the bacteria have essentially three ways of getting into and affecting a person’s body. First, the bacteria can enter via the saliva by adhering to the water droplets within the air we breathe. These bacteria infested water droplets can be then aspirated into a person’s lungs. This can result in pulmonary (lung) infections or pneumonia. This is very problematic in the elderly, the weakened or immune compromised patients, or those suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Second, the bacteria can enter through the gum tissues straight into the blood stream and travel throughout the entire body. This can cause a secondary infection elsewhere in the body, or result in an additive contribution to an existing infection anywhere else within the body. No location or problem is safe or immune to this mechanism. And thirdly, the inflammation associated with the bacterial infection in your mouth can itself cause a secondary systemic (body wide) inflammatory response. This serves to worsen or complicate other conditions that may have an inflammatory origin such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, orthopedic implant failure (joint replacements), and/or kidney disease.
Whatever the mechanism of action of the oral bacteria, it is in every patient’s best interest to maintain an optimal level of health in their mouth. Appropriately trained dentists and doctors are continuing to gain a better grasp on this link. Dentists need to be well versed in the medical histories of their patients, particularly the “at risk” population (those with infections, compromised immune systems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other inflammatory conditions). Doctors should be screening these “at risk” patients for signs of oral infections – including, swollen bleeding gum tissues, pus, loose teeth, chronic bad breath, familial history, and other factors.
Bottom line – your overall health is substantially impacted by the health of your mouth – the place that has the most bacteria of any location in your body. Have yourself screened to find out if you are at risk and in need of treatment.