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The Oral-Systemic Connection: How it is Driving the Third Era of Medicine

Today’s Optimal Care is Tomorrow’s Standard of Care

The goal in the 3rd Era of Medicine is to empower patients to create health by bridging the gap between the standard of care and optimal care. Standard of care is medical testing and treatment that is proven beneficial. Optimal care offers diagnostic testing and treatments that are low risk, biologically plausible, and have solid scientific support even though their use has not yet become main stream.

Much of today’s optimal care will become tomorrow’s standard of care.

Optimal care of your mouth in an effort to reduce your risk of systemic disease is a prime example of treatment we strongly believe will be tomorrow’s standard of care. You may be able to prevent many diseases by investing 10 minutes daily in maintenance of a healthy oral environment.

Should You Worry About a “Little” Blood in the Sink?

There is mounting evidence that high risk bacteria from our mouth enter the bloodstream and are a very significant contributors to many systemic diseases. It is believed that up to 80% of Americans have gingivitis (gum inflammation) and up to 65% have periodontal disease. Both are infections that cause oral tissue inflammation and breakdown. Any bleeding with brushing, flossing, or hygiene cleanings at your dental office suggests that there is an “open door” for these bacteria and other microorganisms to flow throughout your body and increase your risk for many medical conditions including:

  • Heart attacks and strokes
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Dementia
  • Some cancers
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Arthritis
  • Preterm labor, miscarriage, infertility

In a March 2013 study published in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers removed and examined the blood clot of 101 people who had suffered a heart attack.

  • 78% had DNA evidence of bacteria that cause tooth decay
  • 35% had DNA evidence of bacteria that cause gum disease
  • All 9 clots evaluated by an electron microscope showed bacterial parts
  • Whole bacteria were found in 3 of these 9 clots!

The study concluded that up to 50% of the heart attacks may have been triggered by bacteria flowing to the heart from the mouth.

Office care, along with adequate home maintenance can, “close the door and kill the bugs”, thus reducing your risk of disease and making it easier to control existing conditions including diabetes and hypertension.

Oral Bacteria May Cause Heart Attacks and Strokes

 

Inflammation: Periodontal infection causes gum inflammation and breakdown. In the same way, these bacteria can launch into the bloodstream and cause inflammation and breakdown at distant sites including your arterial walls.

Inflammation in the artery wall is important because a heart attack or stroke is caused when inflamed plaque in an artery wall ruptures. Most ruptures occur in small plaques, and they come without warning.

Studies show that periodontal disease increases blood markers that indicate arterial inflammation. Treatment of the oral infection significantly lowers these blood markers, sometimes profoundly! Remember, over 50% of Americans have periodontal infection.

Diabetes: Diabetes is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Treatment of periodontal disease improves glucose control in diabetics.

Cholesterol: HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol that fights arterial plaque buildup. Studies show that HDL is more active to fight disease after periodontal disease is

High Blood Pressure: Even the mere presence of certain high risk oral bacteria is associated with high blood pressure. Gum inflammation does not even need to be present!

Other Systemic Conditions Associated with Gum Infection

Infected Artificial Joints: Since 1979 when it was first published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), we’ve known that the biggest risk to joint replacements is blood-borne infections seeding the artificial joint. There has been debate over whether someone with a joint replacement should have antibiotics with dental cleaning. The one consensus recommendation is to, “… Attain and maintain a good state of oral hygiene “.

Stillbirths: Dr. Yiping Han, a microbiologist from Case Western University, has done groundbreaking research showing that many stillbirths are caused by high risk oral bacteria seeding the placenta during pregnancy.

Preterm Labor: Dr. Han has found a similar association between oral bacteria and preterm labor.

Dementia: There is now strong evidence that one species of oral bacteria is one cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cancer: Patients suffering from cancer have been found to carry elevated levels of antibodies to high risk oral bacteria. The strongest evidence is in pancreatic cancer, which is often untreatable by the time it is diagnosed.

Pneumonia, Sinus Infections, and Ear Infections: Bacteria inhabiting the nose are similar to those inhabiting our mouth. Eliminating high risk bacteria from your mouth may reduce your risk of these very common infections.

A Call to Action

The clear answer to the original question is that no bleeding is acceptable with brushing, flossing or hygienist cleaning. There are protocols that can “close the door and kill the bugs”, meaning that the infection is optimally treated, and inflammation that leaves an open door to flow of bacteria into your bloodstream is extinguished.

High risk bacteria may be present even if your dentist reports no visible inflammation or gum breakdown. Lab analysis of a saliva sample can provide earlier detection of oral pathogens that cause periodontal disease. In addition, optimal home oral hygiene between office treatments is important to maintain a disease-free environment.

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