If you could help prevent your children from dangerous, even life-threatening illnesses for something that takes about two to three minutes per day, would you do it?
I’m guessing you absolutely would.
Scientists are making new discoveries practically on a daily basis about the correlation between oral health and many life-threatening diseases. And the key to preventing them may just be a thorough brushing and flossing routine, along with regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
So here are some of the new discoveries. While much of the research is in early stages and suggests relationships and not outright causation, we do know that oral health does have an impact on overall health. So helping your children develop beneficial oral health practices now might just save their lives.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease (gum disease) are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease, commonly called heart disease. Why, exactly? The inflammation created by periodontitis appears to play a role in damaging arteries.
Further research — a 2018 study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago — showed that brushing and flossing may lower the risk of heart disease.
Dr. Richard Stevenson, a cardiac surgeon with St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro, says the same bacteria that lead to tooth and gum decay may put the body into a state of low-grade inflammation that leads to heart disease, such as hardening of the arteries.
Researchers in Norway have discovered a connection between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease.
“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” said scientist Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen.
The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer´s.
In the study, Mydel points out that “the bacteria is not causing Alzheimer´s alone, but the presence of these bacteria raise the risk for developing the disease substantially and are also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease.”
Clearly, further studies need to be conducted to establish a connection between this strain of bacteria that is implicated in periodontal disease and possibly with Alzheimer’s disease.
Bacteria buildup from food particles in the mouth can travel down into your respiratory system, which can potentially lead to respiratory diseases. Flossing and brushing can remove the excess food particles and bacteria breeding on them and prevent these kinds of illnesses.
Research published in the Journal of Periodontology confirmed that maintaining periodontal health may contribute to a healthy respiratory system. The study suggests that periodontal disease may increase the risk for respiratory infections, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.
According to the report, “Researchers suspect that the presence of oral pathogens associated with periodontal disease may increase a patient’s risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory disease.”
Rheumatoid arthritis and pancreatic cancer
According to Harvard Medical School’s Robert H. Shmerling, MD:
“Studies have linked periodontal disease (especially if due to infection with a bacterium called porphyromonas gingivalis) and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, a 2016 study found a link between this same bacterium and risk of pancreatic cancer.”
Recent research shows that brushing and flossing may significantly reduce your risk of liver cancer.
The research, published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal, originally set out to discover whether there was a link between mouth health and digestive cancers like those of the colon and rectum. While no link was found there, a substantial link was found for liver cancer and oral health conditions.
Dental health and diet may have an impact on the development and severity of psoriasis, according to a study by dermatologists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, so although it often presents as red, scaly patches on the skin, we know that the causes and consequences are more than skin deep,” said Dr. Benjamin Kaffenberger, dermatologist, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Patients who had more severe psoriasis were more likely to report that their gums were in worse condition than patients who didn’t have mild to moderate psoriasis in the first place.”
The bottom line
Parents, the takeaway here is that helping children develop healthy oral care routines now can have a major impact on their overall wellness. Get them started down the right path today, and help them live longer, healthier lives.
If you’re looking for a dentist for your child or would like to discuss your child’s dental habits, we invite you to consider Wild About Smiles, where we specialize in dentistry for children and those with special needs. You can learn more about us at http://www.waskids.com/, or give us a call at (775) 331-9477.
Dr. Perry Francis, his wife and two children have called Reno home for 34 years. At his practice, Wild About Smiles, his team specializes in dental care for infants, children, young adults and people with special needs. He has offices in Sparks (just one mile from the freeway exit at 395 and North McCarran in Reno) and Fallon.