Periodontal Health Has a Major Impact on Your Overall Health Part 2 by Dr. Lenonardo T. Fazio DDS
Last month, I discussed the importance of periodontal health. You will remember that regular periodontive care is crucial to keeping life-threatening bacteria that live in the mouth under control. Bacteria feed on sugars found in the food we ingest and rapidly multiply in anaerobic conditions found in the mouth (under the gum line and in between teeth).

If you don't floss every day, brush your teeth for a good 10 minutes after every meal and use some kind of oral irrigation device, like a WaterPik, then, you are at risk for developing periodontal disease. At first, you will notice that your gums bleed when you brush or floss. This is the beginning stages of periodontitis. This alone is enough to trigger a far-reaching inflammatory response in the body that can cause life-threatening conditions and eventually death if not caught in time.

     Two new studies in the Journal of Periodontology link periodontal bacteria and coronary artery disease as well as preeclampsia (an abrupt rise in blood pressure in 5% of pregnant women). One study looked at patients who had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and discovered periodontal pathogens in their coronary arteries.

     A second study looked at preeclampsia women and found that 50% of the placentas from these women contained one or more periodontal pathogens. This was compared to just 14.3% in the control group. Both of these studies support the strong possibility that periodontal organisms might be associated with the development of other conditions like coronary artery disease and preeclampsia.

     Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 2007) suggests that intensive periodontal treatment may reverse atherosclerosis by improving elasticity of the arteries. Findings from earlier studies have shown a link between periodontal disease and atherosclerosis as well as a connection between dental bone loss and cardiovascular disease. A 2006 study found an increased risk of coronary heart disease for people under 60 years of age who have more than four millimeters of alveolar bone loss (the bone that holds the teeth in the mouth) from periodontal disease.

     The March 2007 study examined two groups: a control treatment group and a periodontal treatment group. The control treatment group received a dental cleaning which is referred to in medical terms as a "supragingival mechanical scaling and polishing." Dental cleanings are considered prophylactic in preventing the early stages of periodontitis and should be performed twice a year or every 6 months. This procedure does not clean infected, diseased gum tissue and root surfaces. It does not eliminate periodontal disease nor get it under control.

     The treatment group received a more thorough procedure that included up to six hours of scaling and root planing. Scaling is a procedure that meticulously removes dangerous bacteria, plaque and tartar that lies below the gum line. Root planing smoothes the root surfaces of the teeth so gum tissue can reattach itself to the root more firmly, preventing tooth loss and sensitivity. The procedure makes it more difficult for plaque to accumulate along the root surfaces. Both these procedures go deeper than a regular dental cleaning.

     Subjects also received antimicrobials and had seriously infected teeth extracted. Meticulous scaling and root planning is an essential part of periodontal treatment. A standard dental cleaning, while important for dental hygiene, cannot effectively treat periodontitis alone. Sometimes, teeth and connective structures such as the upper and/or lower jaw are so seriously infected, bone needs to be removed, but this is when periodontitis has progressed into its later stages. So, the question is, "can an even more thorough cleaning of the gums and teeth, such as scaling and root planning, serve as a treatment for cardiovascular disease?" The question is intriguing and more studies need to be conducted to explore this connection more thoroughly.

     According the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Periodontology, periodontal disease may contribute to prediabetes, a condition which affects over 54 million Americans. Having prediabetes usually leads to Type II diabetes within 10 years. Researchers from Denmark found that having periodontal disease can alter the metabolic pathways of glucose regulation. It's also well-known that diabetics are more susceptible to periodontal disease and often display more serious symptoms than the rest of the population. The importance of periodontal health can not be overemphasized! Current scientific data supports the connection to overall health. Preventing periodontal disease by paying regular visits your dentist may be a simple way to prevent diabetes and even heart disease!

     Take the following test to see if you are at risk for developing periodontal disease: Do your gums bleed when you brush or floss them? Do your teeth look longer and can you see what appears to be part of the root of your tooth when looking in the mirror? Do your gums look red and swollen, purple or pus-filled? Have your teeth shifted or are they loose in any way? If you answered yes to only the first question, you have the beginning stages of periodontitis. If you answered yes to any of the latter questions, you have a serious case of periodontitis and should see a dentist immediately.

     For more information on how dental health and proper periodontal care can impact the rest of your health, or for an appointment for a dental cleaning, please contact: Dr. Len Fazio, DDS, Atlantic Dental Wellness, 1303 Main Street, Suite 2, Port Jefferson, NY 11777; ph: 631-474-7477; email:, or visit: