Metabolic diseases—which are characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity—lead to changes in oral bacteria and put people with the disease at a greater risk for poor oral health. A study of more than 8,000 ten-year-olds in Kuwait showed that metabolic diseases lead to increases in salivary glucose; alterations of the bacteria found in the mouth; and increased risk of cavities and gum disease. This work reinforces the need for preventive dental care and greater integration between medical and dental care.
Over the past ten years, it has become clear that defining a “healthy” microbiome is a critical step for discovering how variations in the bacteria found in and on our body contribute to both disease and wellbeing. While scientists now know a great deal about what bacteria live in our mouth and throughout the body, it is still unclear whether differences in the human microbiome that are seen in many disease states are a symptom of the disease or part of the underlying cause.
In another study, those with Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 23 experienced generally more severe periodontitis and total inflammatory dental diseases. Patients who were obese (BMI over 25) had almost a 6-times increased risk for severe periodontitis compared with normal-weight participants. Altered inflammatory molecules that are associated with obesity may play a role.
The research is providing further evidence of the connections between the mouth and some of society’s most costly and deadly systemic diseases—and of the importance of using the mouth as a tool for preventive health.
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