Pain Free Dentistry

The River Within

Pain Free Dentistry

The River Within

An illustration of water streaming down rocks with trees

Everybody loves the brilliance of a friendly smile and the pleasure of chewing their favorite foods. However, in the 1990s, researchers discovered a correlation between gum disease and other health problems, including heart disease. Over the last 30 years, evidence has continued to link oral and general health. Here’s a fascinating look at what we know and how you can help control your risk.

Have you ever stood beside a rushing river and watched the current carry wood and leaves quickly past? Your blood pulses through your body at a similar pace. Every twenty seconds, blood completes a round trip from head to toe. This closed system averages 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries and delivers many vital components to sustain life.

Sometimes, the system breaks open, and dangerous invaders enter the bloodstream. While we often think of a cut or scrape on the skin as the entry point, the lining of the mouth offers an ideal backdoor. Over thirty square inches of tissue cover the mouth, providing a home to billions of bacteria. A unique collar of gum tissue surrounds each tooth, and a few potent strains of bacteria can reside in this hidden enclave. These microorganisms produce toxins, and the immune system reacts with inflammation. The delicate vessels of the gums deteriorate from the reaction, and bleeding begins.

Potent bacteria can enter the bloodstream quickly. They can quickly reach the brain’s fine vessels and slip through coronary arteries. They can also infect joints, organs, and even fetuses of expectant mothers. In 2010, scientists at Case Western Reserve University investigated a stillborn case in a 35-year-old mother with gum disease. Plaque samples from the woman’s teeth tested positive for the same strain of oral bacteria found in the fetus’s stomach and lungs.

“Once the bacteria are in the blood, they can go almost anywhere,” Yiping Han, a Case Western Reserve professor of periodontics and pathology, said. “The placenta is an immuno-suppressed organ, compared to other organs like the liver and the spleen. And that makes it easy for the bacteria to colonize the placenta.”

While this single case shouldn’t create anxiety for expectant mothers, it highlights the importance of dental health. Oral bacteria may aggravate the body differently, and damage may come in various forms. Looking at the bigger picture, chronic inflammation in any part of the body can exacerbate other health conditions. For instance, diabetes can worsen gum disease, while gum disease can negatively affect blood sugar control. At a microscopic level, oral bacteria have been found in the lining of damaged coronary arteries.

Cancer, Too?


As the search for a cancer cure intensifies, a preventive focus still promises the best defense against the disease. While many people don’t correlate unhealthy gums with cancer, recent research does draw a link. In a study of 48,000 men, those with a history of gum disease carried a 36 percent increased risk of lung cancer, a 49 percent increased risk of kidney cancer, and a 54 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer. We still don’t know why, but saving your teeth could mean saving your life.

When gums bleed due to gum disease, it is akin to having a 2×2-inch open wound on the skin saturated with bacteria. Such a wound would require immediate attention anywhere on the body. However, when gum disease is uncontrolled in the mouth, it becomes a persistent large wound that keeps the door open for bacteria to enter the body. Consequently, this leads to a constant supply of bacteria that enter body areas where they do not belong.

Here’s to Your Health

brush and toothpaste

Maintaining good oral health is crucial to ensure your teeth remain healthy and strong throughout life. Furthermore, research suggests that adopting a preventive approach to dental care can also contribute to a longer lifespan. By combining your efforts with our professional oversight, we can help you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle for years to come while keeping your smile bright and beautiful.

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