There has been a growing interest over the past 20 years in the possible connections between the dental health in general and periodontal diseases in particular on the overall health of the body. Most of us are now well aware of new research studies that implicate periodontal diseases as a possible risk for cardiovascular diseases, poor blood glucose control, adverse pregnancy outcomes, lung diseases, gastrointestinal diseases to name just a few examples. It is important to remember the relationship of oral health to overall human health is not a one way street. On the other hand overall human health, systemic conditions and medications may also have a huge influence on the incidence, severity, and the progress of gum and periodontal diseases.
It is interesting to note that the oral cavity and the gum tissues that support the teeth experience an “early warning system” for changes which happen in the general health condition of the body. The mouth is exposed to a great variety and number of bacteria, fungi and viruses than any other part of the body and this requires a completely well functioning host protective system. Any problems with one or more of the immune system can lead to inflammatory destructive changes in the oral cavity and an overgrowth of the bacteria, fungi, or viruses in the mouth. For example, diseases which impair the body’s protective system, like leukemia and lymphomas have an increased amount of bone loss around the teeth. Similar changes are seen in patients with Down’s syndrome. Furthermore there is an extensive range of mucocutaneous diseases like lichen planus, pemphigus and lupus which show extensive early changes in the gum tissue. Certain cancers can metastasize in the gum tissue or even originate in the gum tissue. HIV associated infections like necrotizing gingivitis or Candida infections are usually early indicators of the body’s declining immune status.
Certain medications like dilantin for seizures, cyclosporine to prevent transplant rejection, or certain medications to treat blood pressure or heart arrhythmias also can lead to inflammatory and or gingival enlargement of the gum tissues.
These are just a few of the many examples of how important it is to visit the dentist regularly to detect any changes in the mouth, teeth, and the gums as it could be the first indication of an underlying systemic condition or disease which could be diagnosed by the dentist at a earlier stage and it could help to get early and appropriate treatment.