Research Shows Link between Oral Health and Overall Health
Over the past decade, physicians and dentists have become increasingly aware of the connection between oral health and overall health. Gum disease has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
To understand how this is possible, let’s look at how things start to go wrong. Obviously, the mouth is a portal to the body. As such, it is exposed to a tremendous amount of bacteria. When bacteria builds up on teeth, it makes the gums more susceptible to infection. As the immune system rallies to attack the infection, the gums become inflamed. Until the infection subsides, inflammation persists. The inflammation releases chemicals that eat away at the gums, as well as the bone structure holding teeth in place. This is what causes periodontitis. Persistent inflammation in the mouth also allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where it can cause inflammation in other parts of the body.
The Role of Oral Health in Diabetes
The connection between diabetes and periodontitis is one of the most well documented. Researchers believe inflammation originating in the mouth weakens the body’s ability to utilize insulin, the hormone needed to convert sugar into energy. A high blood sugar level creates ideal conditions for infections to thrive—and not just in the mouth. For this reason, identifying and treating gum disease has become increasingly important, not just for preventing diabetes but also for managing it. In fact, some studies have shown diabetics have less need for insulin when periodontal disease is treated. Similarly, when diabetes is treated and controlled, gum disease is quickly mitigated.
Oral Health Also Linked to Heart Disease
Although there is ample evidence of a connection between gum disease and heart disease, the exact reasons for this remain elusive. Researchers have found that up to 91% of heart disease patients also have periodontitis. While both conditions have some common risk factors—smoking, unhealthy diets, excess weight—there is reason to believe periodontitis has a significant role in exacerbating the risk of heart disease.
The underlying theory explaining how periodontitis can lead to heart disease centers on inflammation. It is believed that inflammation in the mouth also causes inflammation in blood vessels, which is known to increase the risk of a heart attack. Because inflamed blood vessels reduce blood flow between the heart and the rest of the body, blood pressure is increased. This also increases the possibility of fatty plaque breaking off the wall of a blood vessel and traveling to the heart or the brain—which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Better Oral Health Is Good Preventive Medicine
With all the science pointing to the connection between oral health and overall health, it only makes sense to stay on top of those regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Momentum Insurance Plans, Inc. offers Madison residents affordable dental coverage for individuals and family members who are self-employed, employed but without dental insurance, unemployed, retired, or ineligible for coverage under their parents’ plan. We also offer Wisconsin business owners group dental insurance options for their employees. If you think you can’t afford dental insurance, our rates may just change your mind. Check our coverage options and see for yourself.