Oral Systemic Connection

Gum disease can affect your heart and body.

Maintaining good oral health has many rewards: A sparkling smile, fresh breath, and healthy gums. But recent scientific evidence suggests that it may have an even greater benefit to your overall health: Specifically, it could potentially reduce your risk for a number of systemic (whole-body) diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis — even premature birth.

Periodontal (gum) disease is estimated to affect nearly half of all Americans, and is the major cause of adult tooth loss. Numerous studies have shown that patients with severe periodontal disease are at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Periodontitis may also increase the chance that diabetes will develop or progress, and research suggests an association between gum disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes as well.

Inflammation: Friend and Foe

Gum inflammation.What's the link between diseases of the mouth — like gum disease — and those of the body? They are connected by the body's natural reaction to harmful stimuli, which we call the inflammatory response. Often characterized by pain, redness and swelling, inflammation is a process by which your immune system responds to damage or disease in your tissues. Inflammation can help the body heal — or, if it becomes chronic, it can lead to more serious problems.

Gum disease (periodontitis), CVD, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are all associated with the same type of inflammatory response. Studies have found that moderate to severe periodontitis tends to increase the level of systemic inflammation — a condition that may smolder in the background, awaiting the right conditions to flare into a more serious disease. It has also been shown that the same strains of bacteria that are found in inflamed gum tissue may also appear in the arterial plaques of individuals suffering from CVD.

How Does It Work?

While there is intriguing evidence of a link between gum disease and other systemic diseases, further studies will be needed to prove whether one causes the other. At present, however, several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how the connection works. One suggestion is that oral bacteria themselves may enter the bloodstream, form into clumps, and trigger systemic inflammation. The inflammatory response can cause swelling of cells and tissues, which narrow the arteries and increase the risk of blood clots.

Another possibility is that byproducts of oral bacteria released into the bloodstream could trigger the production of substances called CRPs (C-reactive proteins) in the liver. These proteins tend to inflame blood vessels and promote the formation of clots, possibly leading to clogged arteries, heart disease and stroke. Elevated CRP levels, according to some studies, are a stronger predictor of heart attack than cholesterol levels.

What You Can Do

Since chronic inflammation is a systemic problem, the best way to begin controlling it is via a whole-body approach. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting moderate exercise (and, if you use tobacco, quitting the habit) will help with this. So will bringing untreated inflammatory diseases, such as periodontitis, under control.

There are a number of effective treatments for periodontal disease, including nonsurgical procedures such as root cleaning and the local application of antimicrobials. For more serious conditions, conventional or laser gum surgery is an option. Finally, to keep your gums healthy between office visits, you need to develop an effective oral hygiene routine you can practice at home.

Although it's too early to say that periodontal disease causes heart disease or other systemic conditions, they seem to have a connection. And while medicine and dentistry can't change genetics, together we can control external factors like excess weight, tobacco use… and gum disease. Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to avoid periodontal problems. But if problems occur, don't wait: The sooner you have treatment, the better your chances for controlling gum disease — and perhaps systemic diseases too.

Related Articles

Heart and Gum Disease - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases Inflammation has emerged as a factor that is involved in the process of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), which commonly results in heart attacks and strokes. While the precise role inflammation plays in causing chronic CVD remains an area of intense current investigation, much more is now known... Read Article

Diabetes - Dear Doctor Magazine

Diabetes & Periodontal Disease Diabetes and periodontal disease are chronic inflammatory diseases that impact the health of millions of people. What you may not know is that diabetes and periodontal disease can adversely affect each other... Read Article

Our Location

Find us on the map

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00 am-6:30 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-5:30 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-5:30 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am-5:30 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Saturday:

8:00am - 12:00pm (By Appointment Only)

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

What Our Clients Say About Us

  • "I love all the ladies at the reception, my hygienist and Dr. Mitera."
    Snezana
  • "I always have a very positive experience. The staff is so nice and helpful. I would recommend this office to anyone."
    Judy
  • "Always a pleasant experience!! Professional, and concerned about comfort always ..."
    Beth
  • "Staff is wonderful and assisted very well to my teeth problems. As new patient I am hoping I am hoping to continue to get great care."
    Jeffrey
  • "Excellent"
    Camilla
  • "Everything went well! I was called in because there was an available slot open. So the rescheduling worked out well for all."
    Leonard
  • "Front office is always warm and welcoming. Erin is thorough and gentle, always professional."
    Claudia
  • "Always efficient and pleasant."
    Kathleen
  • "Always very friendly and professional staff, and I am very happy with the excellent dental care I receive."
    Christine
  • "Everyone is so friendly! The dentist took his time and was very patient with me!!"
    Julie
  • "Everyone is very professional, from the front desk to the hygienist. Very clean and pleasant environment. It was my first visit with the new hygienist, she was great, pleasant and very efficient."
    Carol
  • "I have been a patient for >30 years. Dr. Mitera is extremely gentle, and the rapport he has with his dental assistants/techs is terrific. The office personnel have been there for >20 years and are personable and professional."
    Kimberly
  • "Best Dental practice I've ever experienced. I've recommended it to everyone I know. Love the staff and the care I receive!! Thank you, Dr. Young!"
    Cori
  • "This was my first visit and I was very pleased with Dr. Roberts and her staff. Dr. Roberts is friendly but yet professional during my examination. I felt very comfortable and at ease by her and the staff I am so glad to be a patient and look forward to future appointments."
    Mary
  • "Clean and efficient. Professional yet personal. Everyone I've met seems to enjoy being there and helping their patients. Very happy to be able to receive my dental care at Ludlow Family Dentistry."
    David
  • "Our family continues to get a great care and service at Ludlow Family Dentistry. The doctors and entire staff are professional, thoughtful and caring."
    Stephen
  • "Professional, courteous service with a smile!"
    Stanley
  • "I have always felt (and even more so since the COVID pandemic) that the facility is meticulously clean and that Dr. Roberts and my hygienist, Chris have my safety and health foremost in their efforts. Thank you, all!"
    Janvier
  • "Always a pleasure! Professional, personal, quality work all-around. Thank You all!"
    Robert
  • "Ludlow Family Dentistry always make me fell welcome and comfortable. I trust their caring, friendly, and highly skilled staff for my dental needs. I wholeheartedly recommend this place."
    Cathy