The Oral Systemic Connection

Written by: Cypress HomeCare Solutions


This guest blog was generously provided by Dr. Jim Kelly Dentistry. Dr. Kelly has been practicing dentistry since 1983 and has had his own practice here in Phoenix since 2015.

The oral cavity is the gateway to the rest of the human body. As goes the health and wellness of the teeth and gums, so goes the health and wellness of all organ systems within. Bacterial infections of the gums and teeth, namely periodontitis and gingivitis, will negatively impact the health of the blood, heart, pancreas, kidneys, and brain, just to name a few. We call this the Oral Systemic Connection. The oral cavity plays a very important role in the health of the entire body. You cannot be in optimum health when your oral health is poor.

Studies report that upwards of 70% of Americans are walking around with mild periodontal disease or gingivitis. Almost 30% are exhibiting the more severe disease, chronic periodontitis. These numbers are based on a population where only 45% of people see a dentist on a regular basis. As you can imagine then, the actual percentages for chronic periodontitis may be much higher.

Bacteria from infected gums and teeth can affect your overall health in three ways:

First, bacteria associated with periodontal disease can enter the body’s circulatory system through the ulcerated and bleeding gums around the teeth and travel to all parts of the body. Remember, it is a symptom of infection when the gums bleed. It is no more normal for blood to be leaking out of your gums than it is for blood to be leaking from your ear. Where blood is leaking out, bacteria are leaking in. These blood-born oral bacteria will then cause secondary infections and contribute to the disease process in other organ systems and tissues.

Second, inflammation associated with periodontal disease may trigger secondary systemic inflammatory responses within the body and contribute to or complicate other diseases that have an inflammatory beginning such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and even orthopedic implant failure.

Finally, oral bacteria from infected gums and teeth can enter the saliva. From the saliva the bacteria will adhere to water droplets within the air you inhale each time you breathe. The bacteria laden water droplets are then aspirated into the lungs causing pulmonary infection and pneumonia. For the elderly or those who suffer from weakened immunity associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) this can be deadly. Infected gums also contain inflammatory mediators called cytokines that will also enter the saliva and can be aspirated into the lungs. Aspirated cytokines have pro-inflammatory effects on the lower airway, which will contribute to further pulmonary complications.

You will reduce the negative impact that gingivitis and periodontitis can have on your overall health through optimum dental home care and regular professional dental prophylaxis and exams. It is the opinion of many dental professionals that 90% of the prevention of gum disease and dental caries lies in the hands of the patient with daily flossing and brushing, as well as healthier choices in nutrition and lifestyle. The remaining 10% of prevention comes with seeing your dentist on a regular basis. Your dentist and hygienist will customize a re-care schedule that will work best with your particular needs and can instruct you on proper nutrition, flossing and brushing techniques as well.

Remember to brush and floss daily if you want to live a long, healthy, and productive life; Oh, and remember to keep on smiling!

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