Studies show ignoring oral health can impact on rest of the body

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For Dental Health Week (2-8 August) this week, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) wants to alert Australians to the very close links between what goes on in their mouths and the far-reaching effects on the rest of the body.

The latest research across a range of studies has shown that people with advanced gum disease (periodontitis) have a much higher risk of a heart attack than people without it.

In another study conducted recently by Professor Joerg Eberhard, an oral health scientist and chair of Lifespan Oral Health at the University of Sydney’s School of Dentistry, it was found that not brushing your teeth caused systemic inflammation which could prompt serious cardiac events.

Extensive research over decades has found that the main conditions that link the mouth with the rest of the body are cardiovascular, type 2 diabetes and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Studies are also being conducted into the effects of periodontitis on pregnant women. Some early data suggests that if the gum disease is treated, the risk of having a premature baby declines.

“These serious health conditions and events can be significantly reduced if people regularly look after their mouths,” ADA oral health promoter and dentist Dr Mikaela Chinotti said.

Another recent international study by a group of cardiologists and dentists showed that treatment for gum disease reduced blood pressure (BP) normally only achieved through medications, because high BP can come about due to a loss of elasticity in blood vessels and this loss can be caused by inflammation from gum disease.

Lifestyle also plays a big role in oral health: in a three-year study of people from Queensland with poor oral health including gum disease, Professor Eberhard and colleagues found that by adopting better teeth brushing techniques, going regularly to the dentist and adopting a healthier diet all led to reduced systemic markers which are predicters for a heart attack.

“The ADA hopes that by making this mouth and whole-of-body relationship more widely known to Australians, they’ll understand oral health is an integral part of general health,” Dr Chinotti said.

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