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Healthy Teeth - Healthy Body

May 21, 2012

Taking care of your teeth may not only brighten your smile, it may prevent disease. The belief that oral care can have an effect on the health of the body as a whole has been strengthened by recently published findings.

We have been told for years by our dentists that bacteria live in our mouths and help break down our food as we eat. What many do not know is that some bacteria can be harmful to the human body if introduced into the circulatory system. Bleeding and infected gums become an easy way for bacteria to enter directly into the bloodstream and reach every part of the body. According to Nabil Bissada, a professor of periodontics at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, 50 percent of the bacteria in the body are found in the mouth.

Another unhealthy oral symptom that can lead to adverse health effects is inflammation of the gums. According to Bissada, the chemicals that cause redness, pain and swelling can circulate throughout the body and have an undesirable impact on the heart, liver, pancreas and joints. They have also been cited for increasing the likelihood of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

Oral health is important for everyone, but recent studies have found reasons for women to pay extra attention to the practice. According to research by Yiping Han in the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University, bacteria found in the oral cavity of expectant mothers have been linked to stillbirths. The bacteria, known as Fusobacterium nucleatum, were found to be the cause of death of a stillborn infant and that same bacterium was found in the mother's amniotic sac and mouth. It is believed the bacteria reached the infant through the blood stream of the mother.

This is a real issue facing Americans. According to Bissada, 60 percent of adults have moderate to severe gum disease, making it one of the most common inflammatory conditions. The more the correlation between oral health and general health continues to increase, the more likely it will be that a growing number of people will recognize the importance of proper, ongoing oral care.

A study on heart disease in women ages 44 to 88 found that women who received regular oral care were almost one-third less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who had no regular dental care. The study conducted by Dr. Stephen Brown, an obstetrician/gynecologist at West Virginia University, included 7,000 women, and was published in the September issue of Health Economics.

Dental Care Linked to Heart Health in Older Women, HealthDay News, October 5, 2010
Watch Your Mouth: The Link Between Oral and General Health, Dental Health News, September 26, 2010
Oral Bacteria Linked to Still Birth,, January 25, 2010

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