It is no secret that there is an epidemic of chronic disease in the US. We are spending $180 billion to treat heart disease, $227 billion to treat cancer and $112 billion to treat diabetes, according to a yearly analysis of the 10 leading causes of death.
Obesity, heart attacks, cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease, all among the leading causes of death in the US, are inflammatory diseases that can be prevented or reversed through not only changes in diet and lifestyle but also – by resolving oral health care issues.
Yes, what’s going on inside your mouth could hold a key to identifying a cause of inflammation. And it’s actually two fold – oral health profoundly affects what is going on in your body and what is going on in your body, can impact your oral health.
It helps to understand what can go wrong in the first place.
Bacteria that builds up on teeth make gums prone to infection. The immune system moves in to attack the infection and the gums become inflamed. The inflammation continues unless the infection is brought under control. Over time, inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold our teeth in place. The result is severe gum disease, known as periodontitis, of which there are more than 3 million US cases per year. The good news is, it is preventable.
Inflammation can also cause problems in the rest of our body. The working relationship between diabetes and periodontitis may be the strongest of all the connections between the mouth and body. Inflammation that starts in the mouth can weaken our body’s ability to control blood sugar. Diabetes creates trouble processing sugar because of a lack of insulin, the hormone which converts sugar into energy. Periodontal disease adds complications for the diabetic by impairing our body’s ability to utilize insulin and high blood sugar provides ideal conditions for gum infections to grow.
Gum disease and heart disease also often go hand in hand. Research shows that up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66% of people with no heart disease. The two conditions have several risk factors in common, like smoking, an unhealthy diet, and being overweight.
And inflammation in our mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels which can increase the risk for heart attacks in a number of ways. Inflamed blood vessels allow less blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body, which in turn raises blood pressure. There is also a greater risk that fatty plaque will break off the wall of a blood vessel and travel to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.
So when it comes to achieving your optimum health, it’s important to explore the impact and consequences of periodontal inflammation and any other oral health issues which can make healing impossible and systemic disease more likely.