The Oral Systemic Connection
By Larry J. Rush, DDS, PC, Star Dental Systems, Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine
Did you grow up singing Dem Bones? I think it is probably one of the first songs I learned as a child in the 1950s. The website at the bottom will take you to the video of the Delta Rhythm Boys singing Dem Bones purported to have been written by James Weldon (1871-1938).
Somehow, many of us think of our “parts” as separate and autonomous in their function, when really all the components of our body (bones, muscle, tissue, blood) are all very much connected to each other. What happens in one part of the body may very well effect what is going on in another.
Dental health is so much more than an attractive smile because there is increasing evidence that the health of teeth and gingivae (gums) may be affecting other health conditions. The most recent list of suspected oral connections includes: cardiovascular disease (various heart and artery conditions), pulmonary disease, fetal development, diabetes, orthopedic implant failure, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
The same blood that flows through the heart, lungs, muscle, and organs also flows through the gums. When the gums are less than healthy, this blood flow can pick up bacteria and carry it to the rest of the body. The veterinarian often begins the examination of an animal by looking at the teeth and gums simply because he or she knows this is an indication of overall health.
Understanding gum disease is important to maintaining optimum health. Some basic facts about gum disease help put things in perspective. Some of those basics include the fact that the mouth contains over 500 different micro-organisms. Bacterial plaque left uncontrolled becomes calculus and can result in destruction of the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Decay of exposed tooth structure and loss of bone equals loss of teeth, bacteria in the blood stream, and health complications.
Oral health and the connection to other health issues is a topic too involved to cover in this article. But a first step is awareness of symptoms to watch for. These include red, puffy gum tissue, bad breath, receding gums, or bleeding when brushing and flossing.
What to do? Commit to an appreciation of the oral systemic connection. Then be specific with your dentist about your known and existing health conditions. Then be sure to follow your dentist’s recommendations for home care. And don’t be reluctant to discuss your oral health with your primary care physician.
See your dentist or the dentist’s hygienist regularly for removal of plaque and calculus. The condition of your gums will be charted by measuring the “pockets” (gaps) around your teeth. These pockets trap and hold bacteria until the blood comes along and picks them up. In more extreme cases, your dentist may refer you to a specialty dentist called a periodontist.
To learn more, call Star Dental Systems today at 719-597-7979.