Blood in the sink: How the relationship between oral and systemic health is gaining momentum – and what dental professionals need to know, part I

According to an article written by Dr. Richard Nagelberg earlier this year, there are several known and suspected links between oral health and systemic health.

May 3rd, 2013
Perioprotect01

May 3, 2013

According to an article written by Dr. Richard Nagelberg earlier this year, there are several known and suspected links between oral health and systemic health. And yet, dentists and doctors aren’t talking as often as they should – and while general practitioners often refer out of practice to specialists, they’re not referring to each other.

INFOGRAPHIC: Oral health and overall health: Clearing the air about dental care

Because the link is gaining popularity and placement in articles all over the place (see here,here, and here), doctors and dentists have started picking up on the relation. One such pairing exists between Charles “Chip” Whitney, MD, owner of Revolutionary Health Services in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, and Richard Nagelberg, DDS, who operates a dental clinic in Philadelphia. As a result of their professional relationship and in an attempt to introduce their patients to the possibility that the root of their health issues lie in an unexpected area, they’ve introduced their patients to the Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT) Ultrasound, which detects soft plaque that originates in the oral cavity earlier than any other cardiovascular screening test available.

“For the sake of our patients, we need to
close the loop on medicine and dentistry.”

Dental hygienists, nurses discuss collaboration on oral-systemic health
Dr. Nagelberg on the mouth-body connection and on patients, perio, and heart

Back to the known and suspected links: there are two known links between our oral health and our overall health. The first relates to inflammation from periodontal disease, which increases the risk for vascular disease. The second is the direct effect of periodontal pathogens on the vasculature,” which causes vascular disease and damage. The suspicion of the link results from a study by the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation, which concluded that there is a causal relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. There is also strong evidence of a link between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Links between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy effects and Alzheimer’s disease are also suspected, but not proven.

“In my opinion, of all allied health practitioners, dentists and hygienists may ultimately be shown to play the biggest supporting role in combating and preventing systemic disease,” said Dr. Whitney in a press release issued early this year. “For the sake of our patients, we need to close the loop on medicine and dentistry.”

DentistryiQ talked to Dr. Whitney about closing the loop. For the full interview, see Blood in the sink: How the relationship between oral and systemic health is gaining momentum – and what dentists need to know, part II.

For more on this relationship, browse our oral-systemic topic centers:
Oral-Systemic Health
Oral-Systemic Disease

Lauren Burns is the editor of Proofs magazine and the email newsletters RDH Graduate and Proofs. She is currently based out of New York City. Follow her on Twitter: @ellekeid.

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