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Laura Dorr is the executive editor of DPR's Modern Dental Network.
Poor oral health, gum disease and endentulism have all been linked by researchers to life-threatening conditions.
There’s been a lot of buzz about oral systemic health in the news, and for good reason: A whole host of new discoveries have pinpointed that poor oral health is linked to some very serious medical conditions - and that treating oral health conditions could potentially serve as a preventative measure.
Oral bacteria have long been known to play a role in overall health, but lately periodontal disease and the bacteria that cause it have been specifically linked to health conditions including several types of cancer, pulmonary infection, arthritis, cognitive decline and more. Researchers are hard at work pinpointing whether treating oral health issues could lessen the risk of these serious medical events, but for now, it’s critical to recognize the link and impress upon dental patients the importance of good oral health - because their lives could depend on it.
Last year, we covered the connections between oral health and heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and more in the article linked below, but the past 12 months have brought even more important discoveries.
Click through the following pages to see seven of the most serious, scary medical conditions that researchers have linked to poor oral health this year.
Oral bacteria have been linked to a slew of different cancers, including lung, breast and esophageal, and now pancreatic has been added to the list. A recent study has identified two specific types of oral bacteria that have a correlation with the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Aches and pains from arthritis may be linked to periodontal disease, according to a study out of Johns Hopkins, which found that oral bacteria could actually be one of the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. "This research may be the closest we've come to uncovering the root cause of RA," says Maximilian Konig, M.D., a former Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine fellow now at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Extended mercury exposure can be particularly dangerous to a one’s health-and a new study has found that the danger is greatly exacerbated in patients with eight or more dental fillings. Recent research found that adults with more than eight fillings had 150 percent more mercury in their blood than those without fillings.
Gum disease doesn’t only mean bad news for your mouth: It can also have some very serious effects on your pulmonary system. Researchers found that individuals with periodontal disease had an increased risk of developing lung cancer-and that study participants who smoked, drank or had diabetes were at even higher risk.
Dental cleanings do more than just keep teeth and gums healthy: New research suggests that there is a link between pneumonia and visits to the dental office. Study authors discovered that regular dental cleaning can actually decrease the risk of pneumonia caused by oral bacteria.
The dreaded “low T” diagnosis is one that makes many men cringe, but researchers now say there may be a way to help avoid it. A new study discovered that lack of testosterone had a correlation with periodontal disease in monkeys-a discovery that could have big implications for men’s health.
Dementia and cognitive decline
A new study set out to determine whether periodontitis was associated with increased dementia severity and greater progression of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease-and subsequently, whether the treatment of gum disease might also benefit the treatment of dementia.
But wait! It’s not all bad news!
Researchers have discovered that a common oral bacteria could help treat celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes severe digestive and other health problems. The discovery could help in developing alternative treatments for those who suffer from the disease.