Research on Periodontal Disease and Overall Health

The doctors of Capitol Periodontal Group are concerned regarding your overall health and believe it is important that you are well informed regarding the complications that can occur as a result of periodontal disease, such as heart disease, low birth weight in babies, and gum disease.

Periodontal disease and heart disease
There are several types of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. Among these is infective endocarditis, which involves inflammation of the interior lining of the heart and heart valves. It is usually the result of bacterial infection. While damaged and abnormal heart valves are at greatest risk, the condition can also occur in normal valves when a large number of bacteria is present.

Another type of heart disease, coronary artery disease, is characterized by gradual thickening of the coronary artery walls as a result of fatty proteins. Often blood clots form in the narrowed arteries, obstructing normal blood flow and depriving the heart of needed nutrients and oxygen.

What does periodontal disease have to do with heart disease?
An individual with periodontal disease can injure the gum tissue during normal tasks, such as chewing and brushing. This type of injury allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream. It is believed that the accumulation of this bacteria on heart valves can lead to a fatal endocarditis infection. It also appears that the bacteria can attach to fatty plaques and possibly contribute to clot formation, which can be life threatening in patients with coronary artery disease. Individuals with periodontal disease are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease.

What effect does heart disease have on my oral health?
A recent study showed that patients who experience a stroke or heart attack are more likely to have periodontal disease.

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Periodontal Disease and Diabetes
The link between periodontal disease and diabetes has been well documented. Research has found that periodontal disease is more prevalent in diabetics than in non-diabetics, and that diabetics lose more teeth. This prevalence is most likely due to the fact that diabetics are more susceptible to infections. Recent research has shown that periodontal disease can negatively impact diabetic control, making it more difficult to regulate blood sugar/insulin levels. Consequently, it is important that patients with diabetes receive treatment for any periodontal problems.

What effects does periodontal treatment have on diabetes?
Following periodontal treatment, many diabetics show a reduction in their need for insulin due to resolution of the periodontal infection. Furthermore, long-term studies show that control of periodontal disease is an important factor in the stability and progression of diabetes.

What if I have questions?
Please feel free to discuss with your periodontist any questions you may have regarding the link between diabetes and periodontal disease. Obviously, if you are diabetic, it is important that you provide us with this information at your appointment. If you are experiencing difficulty controlling your diabetes, we will be happy to work with your physician toward stabilization of your blood sugar levels.

What about my friends who have diabetes?
Nearly 16 million Americans have diabetes. Please feel free to share this valuable information with any friends and family members who may find it beneficial. We will be happy to answer any questions they may have.

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Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy
Pregnant women are particularly prone to periodontal (gum) disease due to hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. Research has found that women with periodontal disease may be at higher risk for delivering pre-term, low birth weight (PLBW) infants.

What effects can periodontal disease have on my pregnancy?
An individual with periodontal disease may experience little or no symptoms. Nevertheless, a recent study showed that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver a pre-term (before the 37th week), PLBW infant. Complications associated with PLBW include extended hospital stays, follow-up treatment and potential long-term problems for the child.

How can periodontal disease result in pre-term labor?
Scientists suspect periodontal disease, which is a bacterial infection, triggers an increase in PGE (prostaglandin) and TNF (tumor necrosis factor) molecular levels, thereby inducing premature labor.

Are there other causes for PLBW?
Other known risk factors include tobacco use, genetics, drug and alcohol use, level of prenatal care, nutrition and urinary tract infections. However, 25% of PLBW births occur without a known risk factor. The extent to which periodontal disease contributes to these is important, and several studies are ongoing to obtain additional information regarding the association.

What should I do?
Obviously, if you are pregnant, it is important that you provide us with this information at your next appointment. Following a careful assessment of your status, we will discuss how best to control any problems you are experiencing.

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