Can Preventative Dentistry Help Prevent Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Pancreatic Cancer?
Preventative dentistry is the best way to keep from having to visit an emergency dentist, but it may have many more benefits than just dental health. Studies spanning from 2007-2014 indicate that good oral hygiene has a statistical bearing on heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and pancreatic cancer. These studies are from the US and UK, but we find them to be relevant to our Perth area patients, too.
In 2008, researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland and the University of Bristol in the UK found that people whose gums bleed due to inadequate dental hygiene face an increased risk for heart disease. The reason is because bleeding gums allow bacteria from the mouth to travel into the bloodstream and stick to blood platelets. This can form blood clots and lead to a stroke or heart attack.
According to Professor Howard Jenkinson of the University of Bristol, two Streptococcus viruses, Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus gordonii, commonly cause infections which are now acknowledged as an “independent risk factor for heart diseases.”
When the bacteria enter the cardiovascular system, the increase in pressure causes them to clump platelets together as a defense mechanism. This helps the bacteria “hide” from antibiotics, allowing them to thrive.
In 2010, researchers at New York University reviewed more than 20 years of statistics from studies linking gum inflammation to Alzheimer’s disease.
A Danish study that was conducted from 1944 and ended in 1964 when all of the patients were older than 70 was possibly the first study to show a link. For patients between the ages of 50 and 70, those with gum disease were nine times as likely to score low on cognitive function tests. This study also took tooth loss, smoking and obesity into consideration as causative factors.
In 2013, a study was conducted by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire compared brain samples of ten patients with Alzheimer’s with those of ten patients who didn’t have Alzheimer’s. All of the Alzheimer’s patients had a bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is traditionally associated with chronic gum disease, in their brain tissue. None of those who didn’t have Alzheimer’s tested positive for the bacteria.
They continued their research with a mouse study in 2014. They found that two of the three main bacteria that cause chronic gum disease are motile, or capable of motion. Both of those bacteria are commonly found in brain tissue. According to Dr Sim K Singhrao, motile bacteria can travel directly to the brain or use the circulatory system to get there.
The mouse study indicates that the bacteria easily reach the brain on a regular basis once gum disease is established. The damage apparently occurs when the immune system releases chemicals to fight the bacteria.
In 2007, a research team from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, found evidence linking gum disease to pancreatic cancer. In this study, periodontitis was linked to pancreatic cancer, but gingivitis wasn’t. However, gingivitis can cause periodontitis. Lack of good oral hygiene is the main cause of gingivitis.
Data for the Harvard study came from a previous Harvard study called the “Health Professionals Follow-up Study.” This study, which began in 1986, involved more than 51,000 men. The result: men with gum disease have a 64% higher chance of suffering from pancreatic cancer as those who don’t have gum disease.
The culprit may be a substance called nitrosamines, which are present in those with gum disease. Nitrosamines can react with digestive chemicals to produce a “friendly environment” for pancreatic cancer to develop.
What You Can Do
The most important thing to do is to practise sound oral hygiene. That means brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. It also means making sure to see the dentist for regular cleaning. Plaque is one of the main causes of gingivitis and can be removed by regular cleanings at the dentist.
To learn more or to arrange for an appointment, call eDental Perth today: (08) 9361 1728.