The Connection Between Oral Health and General Health

Periodontal Disease (gum disease) was once thought to be a condition that affected only the gums and bone that supports the teeth.  Now we know that other vital internal body organs are affected by bacteria that reside in and infect the mouth, gums and teeth.

There has been a lot of research during the past 15 years that points to a connection between periodontal disease and diabetes, hypertension (HBP), atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and low birth weight babies.  The bacteria that are found in dental plaque are also found in the bloodstream and in plaques in the walls of arteries.

It is well known that gum inflammation and periodontal disease make it harder to maintain glycemic control for diabetic patients.  Periodontal (gum) treatment, when needed, results in healthier gums and improved diabetic control.   Just as good foot care is important for diabetics, periodontal care is also necessary.

In 2007 the Scottsdale Project brought together for the first time medical and dental experts to discuss the evidence related to the association between diabetes, periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease.

The panel of experts proposed the following management plans for diabetic patients:
     1.  Patients with diabetes should be managed as recommended by the American Diabetes Association.
     2.  Patients with diabetes should have a dental examination at a minimum of twice a year, or more frequently if advised by the dental provider, and receive appropriate dental/periodontal care.
     3.  There should be close communication between the primary care physician and the dentist.
     4.  Medical providers should advise the patient with periodontal disease that this is a chronic infection of the gums and an   important complication of diabetes.
     5.  Medical providers should advise patients that periodontal disease has been associated with significant health problems including worsening metabolic control and other complications of diabetes, coronary artery disease and stroke.
     6.  Medical providers should advise the patient that periodontal disease can be treated by the dentist and dental hygienist.
     7.  If the patient has not seen a dentist within the last year, or if there are signs of periodontal disease, the patient should be advised to make an appointment to see a dentist right away.

In my office the "health" side of dental practice is taken seriously.  Whenever a patient has any medical condition that affects their dental condition or dental care I consult with the physician directly so that the patient's treatment can proceed as smoothly as possible.

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