The teeth and gums are a gateway to overall good health

It seems there’s a way to lower our risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D), cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary artery disease (CAD) and high-risk pregnancies: Practice good oral hygiene.

Researchers looked at the records of nearly 339,000 people who had periodontal (gum) disease to see if those who were treated for it went on to have better overall health than those that didn’t. They found that people who had at least one gum disease treatment went on to have lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations for the 4 above-mentioned conditions. They conclude:

This study shows lower medical costs and hospitalizations in the time period following periodontal treatment in patients in four of the five conditions examined (T2D, CVD, CAD, and pregnancy), when compared to untreated controls. In each case, the difference is both statistically significant and substantial in magnitude (11%–74% lower in the treated group).

The interesting question is why. In general terms they think the “deep pockets” of bacteria and bacterial toxins present in gum disease will, if left untreated, be swallowed, or enter the bloodstream via ulcerated and inflamed tissues. Once there, the body will counter with an immune/inflammatory response that can become chronic and eventually lead to systemic disease.

Although the oral–systemic disease link is complex and is still being investigated, the researchers nevertheless recommend that periodontal treatment “be considered part of the preventive armamentarium for chronic disease management.”

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