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by Noelle Copeland May 25, 2021 5 min read

Disclosure: Noelle Copeland RDH is the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant and Baby Buddy oral care lines.

Poor oral care can ultimately lead to innumerable problems. Those problems don't always stay stationary to your mouth, either. Did you know that when your oral health is poor, not only can it cause disease and irreversible damage in the mouth, it can also harm your overall health?

The connection between oral health and systemic health is intricate, and they affect one another directly and indirectly. Bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause disease or complicate immunocompromised persons already dealing with a disease or medical illness.

3 Conditions Complicated by Poor Oral Health:
Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease happens in the arteries. Fatty plaques deposit and build up, resulting in narrowed arteries that slow and block blood flow. This can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, angina, organ damage, and transient ischemic attacks, to name a few.

Active periodontal disease overlaps cardiovascular risks employing inflammatory cytokines and antibodies produced in response to infection. The connection between gum disease and heart disease may be related to c-reactive protein (CRP), a protein found in blood plasma. CRP becomes elevated in the bloodstreams of those with periodontal disease, and levels may rise in response to inflammation in the body.

Arteries measured and clinical findings have revealed:

  • Plaques within the walls of an artery contain up to 95% bacteria.
  • 30-50% of those plaques contained periodontal disease pathogens.
  • Pathogenic bacteria in our mouths are ending up in our arteries.
  • Our body sends out antibodies to fight bacteria in the arteries.
  • Causing inflammation, which impacts overall health.

We aren't exactly sure how or why these pathogens get there. Still, because the oral environment produces plaque/tartar and builds up in response to overall oral health, the assumption remains that if that bacteria travels throughout the circulatory system, it will eventually attach to other plaques built up in different parts of the body.

Additionally, the evidence and studies are not conclusive in how these two diseases, directly and indirectly, affect one another and how to best treat that.

  • Does treating periodontal disease lower your cardiovascular risk? Maybe!
  • Does periodontal disease cause cardiovascular disease? No! However, we know that periodontal disease makes treating cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease much more difficult.

Gum disease and heart disease have risk factors in common. Risk factors include smoking and being overweight. This commonality may help explain why they can co-occur.

  • Don't smoke.
  • Know your family history and risk factors.
  • Implement a healthy lifestyle and nutrition program.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay active.
  • Take care of your teeth and gums.
Diabetes

Estimates show that diabetes affects over 30 million Americans and worldwide over 400 million people. Evidence throughout the world suggests that having diabetes in any capacity increases your risk of developing periodontal disease. Inflammation plays a significant connection piece between diabetes and periodontal disease. Inflammation is a known cause of insulin resistance. Therefore, chronic periodontal disease can increase insulin resistance and worsen glycemic control when left untreated and allowed to progress because it causes significant inflammation in the mouth.

  • People with diabetes are susceptible to infections, primarily when their blood sugar is uncontrolled.
  • Glucose is present in the saliva.
  • When glucose is high in the saliva, oral bacteria grows.
  • High oral bacteria cause inflammation, decreasing the body's ability to control blood sugar.
  • Eventually, oral health declines, and systemic health falters.

In essence, diabetes can cause oral disease, and oral infection can make treating diabetes more complex and challenging.

  • Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable and accounts for almost 90% of cases.
    Keeping weight under control.
    Exercising.
    Eating a healthy diet that's low in processed sugars and carbohydrates.
    Don't Smoke.
  • Type 1 diabetes is relatively autoimmune, cellular-mediated, with absolute insulin deficiency.
    Treat and control low-grade inflammation
    See a dental professional regularly.
    Diabetic patients may need to plan for quarterly dental cleanings vs. bi-annually.
Pregnancy

There is evidence linking severe periodontal disease with the increased risk of delivering a preterm, low birth weight baby. Presently, 12% of US pregnancies are complicated by preterm birth, meaning birth happens before 37 weeks of gestation. Low birth weight refers to babies that weigh less than 5 lbs 8 oz. Small gestational age refers to a baby measuring less than the 10th percentile.

During pregnancy, know that:

  • Active periodontal disease has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.
  • Including preterm delivery, preeclampsia, and low birth weight.
  • This risk is highest for those with limited access to care and low socioeconomic status.

The current consensus is that pathogenic oral bacteria travel throughout the body via the bloodstream and negatively affect other parts of the body, including crossing the placenta during pregnancy. These microorganisms cause inflammation in the oral environment and can potentially cause inflammation in other parts of the body, leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Although the science isn't settled, consider how oral health and systemic health are intricately connected, how systemic health and access to care are woven together, and how low socioeconomic status leads to poorer healthcare outcomes.

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant:

  • Implement an excellent homecare program.
  • Brush 2-3 times a day, effectively, that means: At least 2 minutes of brushing, rinsing with an alcohol-free mouth rinse, and flossing every night, and even using interproximal cleaners for any spaces or areas that need a little extra attention.
  • Visit your Dentist and Dental hygienist.
  • Address any recommended dental issues and get your teeth professionally cleaned. ALSO: Learn about early infant oral care and start your baby out on the right track for optimal health.
  • Don't brush after an episode of vomiting/reflux.
  • Rinse your mouth well with plain water. Follow that up with a Ph stabilizing mouth rinse or gel with Xylitol. Drink lots of water.
  • Eat Clean, whole foods.
  • Limit processed sugars and carbs.
Be sure to check out our specialty toothbrush and our soft toothbrush for sensitive teeth by visiting https://www.brilliantoralcare.com/collections/manual-toothbrushes.

© 2021 Compac Industries. All rights reserved. This article provides information about "oral health topics" as expressed through the perspective and experience of the author. The information provided does not substitute professional advice or counsel, including diagnosing or treating any condition. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, an oral condition, an illness, or treatment of any listed or nonlisted situation above. By using this site, you signify your assent to our Terms and Conditions. If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions, do not use this site.


Noelle Copeland
Noelle Copeland

Noelle Copeland is a licensed dental hygienist and Brilliant’s® first oral care specialist. She brings 25 years of clinical dental experience to the Brilliant® family and has become a regular contributor, creator and editor to the overall content and presentation of Brilliants® oral care line. She graduated with honors, Phi Theta Kappa, from Georgia State University Perimeter College in Dunwoody, Georgia, where she had been president of her dental class. Noelle has spent the majority of her career in the direct treatment of patients clinically and specializes in patient education and prevention strategies. She enjoys studying nutrition, oral care science and natural health.


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