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Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body

 

Taking good care of your mouth does more than help ensure you have a bright, white smile. Having a healthy mouth and healthy body go hand-in-hand!









Pancreatic Cancer and Heart Disease

Recent studies have linked good oral hygiene with good overall health. Having a healthy mouth can reduce your risk for many serious diseases, including heart disease and pancreatic cancer. The inflammation that is caused by gingivitis and periodontal disease has been linked to these diseases. Bacteria that thrives in the mouth can travel to other parts of the body and can cause infection or worsen existing infections in many areas, including the lungs and joints.

Picture of heart disease prevention.

Scientists say they have established one reason why gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. The link between gum and heart problems has long been recognized but it is unclear if poor oral health is simply a marker of a person’s general well being. UK and Irish experts now say bacteria enter the bloodstream via sore gums and deposit a clot-forming protein. The findings are being presented at a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology.

Earlier this year a Scottish study of more than 11,000 people found people who did not brush their teeth twice a day were at increased risk of heart disease. It backed up previous findings that suggested a link, but researchers stressed the nature of the relationship still needed further analysis.

Scientists from the University of Bristol working with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland now suggest it is the Streptococcus bacteria – responsible for causing tooth plaque and gum disease which may be to blame. Their work shows this bacteria, once let loose in the bloodstream, makes a protein known as PadA which forces platelets in the blood to stick together and clot. Research such as this makes a welcome contribution to further understanding the nature of the relationship between gum disease and heart disease". When the platelets clump together they completely encase the bacteria. This provides a protective cover not only from the immune system, but also from antibiotics that might be used to treat infection,” said Professor Howard Jenkinson, who led the research.

Unfortunately, as well as helping out the bacteria, platelet clumping can cause small blood clots, growths on the heart valves, or inflammation of blood vessels that can block the blood supply to the heart and brain. While maintaining good dental hygiene could minimise the risk, the team is also investigating how the platelet-activating function of the protein PadA can be blocked.

Professor Damian Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said: “Research such as this makes a welcome contribution to further understanding the nature of the relationship between gum disease and heart disease.“ It also underlines the high importance of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, restricting your intake of sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly in order to maintain good oral health.

The British Heart Foundation said that were other factors besides oral health which had a greater impact on heart health. But their senior cardiac nurse Cathy Ross added that combining good oral health care “with a healthy diet, not smoking and taking part in plenty of physical activity will go a long way in helping you reduce your overall risk of heart disease”.

For more information: “Periodontal Disease And Pancreatic Cancer Linked.” Medical News Today. N.p., 19 Jan 2007. Web. 14 Nov 2011. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/60977.php

Stroke and Periodontal Disease

Recent studies have shown that people with moderate to advanced periodontal disease are at a greater risk for having a stoke. One study published by the American Stroke Association in 2004 showed that patients with severe periodontitis, or gum disease, had a 4.3 times higher risk of stroke than those with mild or no periodontal disease. The bottom line is: If you have an infection in your mouth 24 hours a day for 7 days per week, then it is going to spread to your entire body!

New studies are released every year linking periodontal disease and stroke. The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable and treatable and is an easy way to eliminate one risk factor you may have for stroke.

Memory

Keeping your gums healthy not only prevents gingivitis and periodontal disease, but it can also help improve your memory, according to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. In a study done by the journal, adults who had gingivitis performed worse than those who didn’t on tests of memory and cognitive skills. They were more likely to perform poorly on tests of delayed verbal recall and subtraction--two skills we use every day!

Diabetes

Diabetes can make you less able to fight off infection, which includes infections of the gums. Some experts have linked uncontrolled diabetes with gum disease, suggesting that untreated periodontal disease may make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Having a healthy mouth will help you protect your overall health by making it easier to control your diabetes.

Pre-term Delivery and Low Birth Weight Babies

Some research suggests a link between gingivitis and pre-term, low birth weight infants. With 1 in 8 babies born prematurely, prevention is the key! Maintaining good oral health may help prevent premature delivery. See your dentist as part of your prenatal care. He or she will give you good tips and insight into oral health and a healthy pregnancy.

As you can see, the phrase “healthy mouth, healthy you” really is true and is backed by growing scientific evidence!

A Healthy Mouth, A Healthy Body in Childhood

It's never too early to start teaching your children to take care of their teeth and gums--healthy habits learned in childhood can pay off in adulthood. If you’re tempted to shrug off your good oral hygiene habits--brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly — remember that you’re a role model for your kids!