So often when an organ in the body becomes diseased, only that area is treated, without
consideration given to how it may have affected other organs or areas in the body. However, in integrative medicine and dentistry, it has been know for years that as the saying goes, ?it?s all connected.?
Numerous medical conditions give early warning symptoms in the mouth. Who would think that pain radiating to the jaw is a warning sign for a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI)? A heart attach occurs when oxygen flow to the heart is severely obstructed for a prolonged period of time. The blockage is a buildup of plaque (cholesterol and other fatty substances). Studies have shown that the plaque in atherosclerosis also contains bacteria found in gum disease.
Gum disease is so widespread in diabetics that it?s often referred as the ?sixth complication of diabetes.? Periodontal disease (gum disease) exacerbates diabetes and vise versa. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. In fact, studies have shown that severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar. This places diabetics at increased risk for diabetic complications. Treatment of periodontal disease for diabetics is extremely important towards the control of diabetes.
Studies have indicated that C-reactive protein (CRP) levels increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. A recent published study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that elevated CRP levels can predict cardiovascular disease more accurately than cholesterol tests. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology reported that inflammatory effects from periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection of the gums, cause oral bacterial by-products to enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to make proteins such as CRP that inflame arteries and promote blood clot formation. It is therefore, accurate to consider periodontal disease as a major contributor to increased levels of CRP.
A significant association between periodontal disease and obesity has been researched at Case Western Reserve University. A group of 13,665 individuals were tested for body mass index and waist circumference as well as periodontal examinations. An alarming 76% of those tested and regarded as obese had periodontal disease compared to those with normal weight. This was mostly evident in individuals between the ages of 18-34.
AIDS is characterized by numerous physical symptoms. Approximately 90% of individuals with HIV infection will develop oral manifestations. Yeast infections of the mouth (candidiasis) and white patches that cannot be wiped off (hairy leukoplakia), may be some of the first symptoms and signals that indicate HIV infection may be present.
There are many other connections between this very important organ we call “the oral cavity” and the rest of the body. It is important not to take symptoms, such as bleeding when brushing or flossing, or other seemingly harmless signals, as not important. Regular dental check ups must be kept routinely as should a pap smear or other vital screenings.