Understanding Mouth-Body Connection (VIDEO)
The Oral-Systemic Connection
Our goal is to empower our patients to create health by bridging the gap between the standard of care and optimal care. Standard of care is medical testing and treatment that is proven beneficial. Optimal care adds to standard of care methods, diagnostics and treatments that are low risk, make intuitive sense, and have solid scientific support even though their use has not yet become main stream.
Much of today’s optimal care will become tomorrow’s standard of care.
Medically managing your mouth is the perfect example of what we strongly believe is tomorrow’s standard of care in action today. In fact, you may be able to prevent many diseases by investing 10 minutes of your time daily.
Should You Worry About a Little Blood in the Sink?
There is strong evidence that oral infections may cause several diseases throughout your body.
- We all have bacteria in our mouth. Some are low risk, some high risk for disease.
- Researchers have found DNA evidence of at least 5 strains of high risk oral bacteria in carotid artery plaque removed during surgery.
- At least 2 strains of oral bacteria place you at a 3-5 fold increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Any gum bleeding indicates there is an active connection between your mouth and blood, making blood-borne conditions possible.
- It is believed that up to 80% of Americans have gingivitis (gum inflammation) and up to 65% have periodontal disease (gum infection and tissue breakdown). Therefore, 4 of 5 of you may be at risk of systemic disease originating from your mouth!
How Might Oral Bacteria Cause Heart Attacks and Strokes?
- Inflammation: Just as high risk oral bacteria cause gum inflammation and breakdown, the blood-borne bacteria can cause inflammation and breakdown in your arterial walls. Studies have associated high levels of blood inflammatory markers with periodontal disease. I personally have watched the LpPlac2 cardiovascular inflammatory marker plummet when the only variable a person changes is improved home oral care! Inflammation in the artery wall is important because a heart attack or stroke is caused when inflamed plaque in an artery wall ruptures. Most ruptures occur in small plaques, and they come without warning (learn more).
- Diabetes: Diabetes is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Treatment of periodontal disease improves glucose control for diabetics.
- HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol that fights arterial plaque buildup. Studies show that HDL is more active to fight disease after periodontal disease is treated.
- High Blood Pressure: Even the mere presence of certain high risk oral bacteria is associated with high blood pressure. Gum inflammation does not even need to be present!
Other Conditions Associated with High Risk Oral Bacteria
Infected Artificial Joints:
Since 1979 when it was first published in JAMA, we’ve known that the biggest risk to joint replacements is blood-borne infections seeding the artificial joint. There has been heated debate over whether someone with a joint replacement should have antibiotics with dental cleaning. The one consensus recommendation is to, “… Attain and maintain a good state of oral hygiene “.
Dr. Yiping Han, a microbiologist from case Western University, has done fabulous research showing that many stillbirths are caused by high risk oral bacteria seeding the placenta during pregnancy.
Dr. Han has found a similar association with oral bacteria and preterm labor.
Pneumonia, sinus infections, and ear infections:
Bacteria inhabiting the nose are similar to those inhabiting our mouth. Eliminating high risk bacteria from your mouth may also reduce your risk of these very common infections.
Cancer and Dementia:
Systemic inflammation has been found to be a contributor to Alzheimer’s disease and some types of cancer. Patients suffering from these diseases have been found to carry elevated levels of antibodies to high risk oral bacteria.
A Call to Action
The obvious answer to our original question is that no bleeding is acceptable with brushing, flossing or hygienist cleaning. Also, high risk bacteria may be present even if your dentist reports no visible inflammation or gum breakdown.
Learn how you can keep the “water in your fish tank” crystal clear, and with the help of your hygienist, optimally reduce your risk of these potentially devastating diseases.