Periodontal Medicine Explained

The belief that periodontal infection and systemic health are closely related is not a new discovery. This very little known relationship was published as a commentary by Willoughby Dayton Miller in the “Dental Cosmos” in 1891. Mr. Miller explained his opinion that a relationship did exist between periodontal infection and systemic illness. Miller pointed out that the mouth is used as an entrance point to the rest of the body by microorganisms and by the waste microorganisms leave behind. Miller believed that some examples of such microorganisms are: pneumonia, septicemia, meningitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, and gangrene. It was believed that these microorganisms entered the body through oral mucosa.

William Hunter, like Willoughby Miller, also stated his similar opinion concerning oral infections and systemic illness. Hunter believed that systemic illness such as middle ear infections, glandular swelling, tonsillitis, meningitis, and ulcerative endocarditis originated from periodontal infections. There have been many other reports since that time that further prove the accuracy of these early opinions. It was due to these early links of periodontal infection and systemic illness that brought attention to the importance of good oral care. At that time the link was made between dentistry and medicine. It was that link that prompted the prophylactic removal of teeth to prevent systemic illness.

A paper written by Mattila and coworkers in 1989, again pointed out that there was a relationship between oral infections and systemic illness. Their report was backed with solid scientific evidence. There were others such as Offenbacher, Beck, and DeStefano that have all supported the idea that periodontal infections cause much higher risks of systemic illness , especially cardiovascular disease and low preterm birth weight.

Mattila and coworkers’ research showed that test subjects with periodontitis problems were 1.3 times more likely to experience a myocardial infarction than those test subjects with good dental health. This relationship was proven without looking at any other factors normally measured in myocardial infarction studies. Today even some surgeries are postponed due to declining dental health. Prophylactic antibiotics are given at times before dental work to prevent the spread of infection.

In 1996, at The World Workshop Of Periodontics, periodontics and medicine were joined together with the term “periodontal medicine” by Offenbacher when he described the relationship of periodontal infection and systemic illness.

Recent statistics show that patients with cardiovascular disease and periodontitis have many similarities. They are similar in that they both occur in the older population and predominantly in males. The patients most likely used tobacco products, occurred in populations with less education, and had high stress levels. The study showed that patients with periodontitis were very likely to suffer with cardiovascular disease. Also elevated white blood cell count and elevated fibrinogen correlated with gingival index. Elevated white count and fibrinogen are indicators of blood clots and infection.

As shown in this report, good dental hygiene is very important not only for a beautiful smile, but also can literally save your life. As shown in the above evidence, poor dental health can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and systemic infection.