October 1, 2014 Studies show that your oral health can provide indicators about your likelihood to have or develop other diseases and conditions. For example, did you know that there is a relationship between the germs found in dental plaque and those in the lungs that cause pneumonia? Elderly people, in particular those who living in nursing homes or are hospitalized, are at increased risk to develop pneumonia, which means they or their caregivers need to take extra care to maintain their oral hygiene. More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases – including heart disease and diabetes – have oral symptoms. Gum disease, which affects nearly 80 percent of Americans, is prevalent in individuals with both conditions, and could even be an early indicator for the diseases. Why is gum disease treatment important? Because of high glucose levels, patients with diabetes are at a greater risk for periodontitis, tooth loss, fungal infections and dry mouth. Diabetes impairs white blood cells and causes blood vessels to thicken, both of which reduce your body’s ability to fight bacterial infections like periodontitis. Gum disease can harm both the gums and bone that hold your teeth in place and can eventually make it painful to chew. Like with any infection, gum disease can make it harder to control your blood sugars, leading to a vicious cycle and making it even more imperative to practice good oral health and seek periodontal disease treatment. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop gum disease Uncontrolled diabetes, or even the medications you take to control your diabetes, can decrease saliva flow, causing dry mouth. More than just keeping your mouth moist, your saliva actually prevents infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth, cleanses your mouth by neutralizing acids, and washes away dead skin cells on your gums, teeth and tongue. Without enough saliva, dry mouth can lead to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay or cavities. Combined with high glucose levels, dry mouth can also lead to thrush, an uncomfortable fungal infection of your mouth and tongue. Chronic gum disease can point to heart disease Heart disease will claim an estimated 600,000 lives this year, making it the leading cause of death in America. While it remains to be seen whether periodontal disease actually causes heart disease, research has shown some clear connections between the two. It is known that patients who have chronic periodontal disease are at a higher risk for heart attack. Gum disease may also contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. The inflammation cause by periodontitis may also trigger clot formation. Those clots decrease blood flow to the heart, increasing both blood pressure and the risk of heart attack. Tooth loss and gum bleeds are associated with risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking. In a recent study, the American College of Cardiology notes that for every decrease in the number of teeth, there was an increase in the levels of a harmful enzyme that promotes inflammation and the hardening of arteries. While it’s possible gum disease and heart disease simply share common risk factors, there are those who believe the relationship goes deeper. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that cholesterol-lowering medications, common for those with heart disease, actually reduce gum inflammation and could be a potential gum disease treatment. This study draws another connection between the two and also made very clear that people with both gum disease and heart disease should be even more vigilant about visiting the dentist for gum disease treatment. Good oral health is key, especially for patients with diabetes or heart disease Brush teeth twice a day, and use a good brushing technique, which can be perfected with help from your dentist or hygienist. Floss at least once a day. Quit smoking, which makes gum disease even more prevalent if you have diabetes and are over the age of 45. Use antiseptic mouthwash and toothpaste. If you experience dry mouth, choose a mouthwash without alcohol as an ingredient. Get regular checkups and cleanings, and be sure your dentist knows you have diabetes or heart disease and what medications you are taking. Be aware that some people may need more frequent visits than every six months. Tell your dentist right away if your gums are sore, swollen or red; you notice dryness, or ongoing bad taste in the mouth; or your dentures are sore or not fitting correctly, as these can all be indicators of larger problems. Eat healthy foods. Vitamin deficiencies can make it harder for your body to fight off infection and heal. At Caffaratti Dental Group, we know your oral health is a vital piece of your overall health. We are experienced in periodontal disease treatment, particularly in patients with diabetes or heart disease. In addition to brightening your smile, we want to help you achieve your best self. Call us today at (775) 204-9020to make an appointment.