By now, many of us are armed with the knowledge that a healthy lifestyle can help ward off age-related chronic diseases. But did you know that unhealthy gums and teeth are often found in combination with heart disease and other health conditions? Gingivitis, an inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth, generally results from poor oral hygiene, such as lack of brushing and flossing. However, smoking, stress, poor nutrition, hormonal changes and certain medications are among other contributing factors. Left untreated, this condition can lead to a more serious infection known as periodontitis, which occurs below the gum line and damages the soft connective tissues and the bone that support the teeth. This largely preventable condition can cause bone and tooth loss and potentially increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and chronic disease.
If your gums are red and puffy and bleed easily when brushing or eating, seeking dental care sooner rather than later can help reverse any damage and potentially prevent other health problems. The long term effects of extended bacterial exposure is a source of disease for the entire body, as highly aggressive bacteria can make their way into the bloodstream. These periodontal pathogens are believed to be a contributing source of immune overreaction in the inflammatory disease patterns of cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and possibly Alzheimer’s. As nearly half of the U.S. population over 30 years of age is estimated to have or be at risk for chronic periodontitis, this destructive inflammatory disorder needs to be addressed in order to protect general health.
- Diabetes – The association between diabetes and inflammatory periodontal disease has been well documented. Often considered a complication of diabetes, research suggests that periodontal disease adversely affects the metabolic control of diabetes. Conversely, diabetes increases the risk of developing periodontitis.
- Cardiovascular disease – Studies have shown a strong connection between the importance of oral health in connection to heart health. The potential causal relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease suggests that treatment of gum disease may reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis, narrowing of the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. While medical science cannot confirm that periodontitis causes heart disease, scientists believe the link involves more than the common shared inflammation response risk factor. General medical recommendations for people with periodontal disease include a medical evaluation for heart problems. For people with heart disease a dental exam is recommended to evaluate signs of periodontal disease.
- Respiratory diseases – Current scientific findings suggest a link between periodontal disease and the development of respiratory tract diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and pneumonia, especially in the elderly population. Oral bacteria can reach the lungs through aspiration or inhalation, causing infections or a worsening of existing lung conditions.
Treatment for periodontal disease can involve deep cleaning, surgical and restorative procedures. Good lifestyle habits, including a well balanced and nutritious diet and not smoking, are important steps towards regaining periodontal health. As always, prevention, including habitual dental exams and good oral hygiene, and healthy habits, such as frequent brushing and daily flossing, are critical to preventing gum disease and maintaining good oral and overall health. One more tip, when the bristles on your toothbrush begin to wear and fray, it’s time to invest in a new brush!
Here are some suggestions for products and supplements that support oral health:PerioBiotic Fennel Toothpaste by Designs for Health – This fluoride-free toothpaste contains a strain of probiotic that competes with unhealthy strains of oral bacteria. Additional active ingredients have been shown to promote dental and oral health. Also available in spearmint flavor. CoQ10 ST 100 by Metagenics – This highly bioavailable antioxidant formula helps to suppress the inflammatory response and helps prevent CoQ10 deficiency often seen in those with periodontal disease. OraBliss™ by Quantum Nutrition Labs – This formula provides a unique patented probiotic for support of healthy teeth and gums. Suitable for ages 5 and up. Ultimate-E (E143) by Thorne Research – This pure, undiluted vitamin E contains naturally occurring mixed tocopherols, which have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system and help heal and preserve periodontal tissues. Neem & Pomegranate Toothpaste by Himalaya Herbal Healthcare – This fluoride and saccharin free toothpaste contains dependable time tested ingredients neem, triphala and pomegranate to keep teeth and tissues clean and healthy. Neem has been used for centuries for its powerful antimicrobial and antifungal properties.