Poor oral health linked to complications throughout body

Oct. 26, 2006
P&G Oral Care, Crest, and Oral-B partner with Scientific American to provide a comprehensive picture of research on the link between oral health and whole body wellness.

CINCINNATI, Ohio--P&G Oral Care, Crest and Oral-B have partnered with Scientific American to present the most comprehensive information and expert opinions regarding the relationship between oral health and whole body wellness, along with potential implications for future health care models.

News regarding the link between oral health and systemic health is emerging at a tremendous pace. The potential impact of this evolving research is noted in statements by the U.S. Surgeon General as well as global health organizations including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

Each organization has stated that mounting evidence shows associations may exist between poor oral health and conditions in other areas of the body.

As experts continue to evaluate the nature and extent of the relationship, the line between science and hype can get blurry. The information conveyed in this month's special publication of Scientific American seeks to provide the latest, most accurate understanding of the association between oral and systemic health.

Among the Issues covered in Scientific American Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection affecting the gums, is the most common chronic infectious disease in the world. Population surveys and studies done in the United States indicate that more than 50 percent of adults have gingivitis and 30 percent have periodontitis.

Gingivitis, the earliest form of the disease, can lead to periodontitis if left untreated. This advanced form of periodontal disease can result in significant tissue damage and loss of bone and teeth. New research indicates that inflammation resulting from the immune's system's fight against the bacteria is a key contributor in the progression of periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease and Systemic Disease
Current evidence indicates that oral health and overall health may be linked by two primary factors: bacteria and the inflammation produced when the body defends against bacteria.

The connection has been studied in several health conditions reviewed in detail in Scientific American:

*Diabetes--The evidence showing a link between periodontal disease and systemic disease is strongest for diabetes, a condition affecting more than 20 million Americans. Several studies have shown that people with diabetes who also have periodontal disease experienced significant reductions in blood-sugar levels when their gum disease was treated. Diabetics aim to keep blood sugar as close to normal as possible to help reduce the risk of long-term complications of diabetes. Obesity has been shown to be another factor that increases the risk for both diabetes and periodontal disease.

*Cardiovascular Disease--There are many common factors between cardiovascular disease, a condition affecting 70 million Americans, and periodontal disease. One of these is inflammation. While research establishes there are links between the two conditions, further studies are needed to determine if one condition causes the other.

*Pregnancy--In the US, nearly one of every 10 babies is born too early. A growing body of data suggests that periodontal disease could lead to preterm births.

*Elderly--As people grow older, their risk increases for developing oral disease. Oral bacteria have been implicated in various respiratory conditions among the elderly, particularly those in institutional settings. Periodontal disease is also being evaluated for its role in other conditions affecting the elderly, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Implications of a Link
Further research is underway to help experts determine the exact nature of relationships between oral health and various systemic conditions. With more than 100 years of innovation and expertise in the field of oral care, Crest and Oral-B are committed to helping uncover these links and meeting the oral healthcare needs of dental professionals and their patients.

Key learnings from research compiled in Scientific American are helping to break barriers between dental and medical professionals, causing them to create models for more comprehensive patient care.

Many insurance companies have begun to expand coverage of dental services in an effort to reduce more costly medical care. While we wait for the science to unfold the complete impact of good oral health on overall wellness, the benefits of good oral hygiene to prevent oral diseases are reason enough to pick up your toothbrush, paste and dental floss and regularly visit your dental professional.