Oral infections and gum disease are on the rise, even in the most advanced countries with the best health care systems. Perhaps more disturbing is the increasingly apparent connection between gum disease and debilitating diseases.

Recently, it has been recognized that oral infection, especially periodontitis, may affect the course and pathogenesis of a number of systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes mellitus, and low birth weight.

How Oral Infections Lead to Systemic Disease

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, there are three mechanisms or pathways linking oral infections to secondary systemic effects that have been proposed. These are metastatic spread of infection from the oral cavity as a result of transient bacteremia, metastatic injury from the effects of circulating oral microbial toxins, and metastatic inflammation caused by immunological injury induced by oral microorganisms.

  • Metastatic infection – As previously discussed, oral infections and dental procedures can cause transient bacteremia. The microorganisms that gain entrance to the blood and circulate throughout the body are usually eliminated by the reticuloendothelial system within minutes (transient bacteremia) and as a rule lead to no other clinical symptoms than possibly a slight increase in body temperature. However, if the disseminated microorganisms find favorable conditions, they may settle at a given site and, after a certain time lag, start to multiply.
  • Metastatic injury – Some gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria have the ability to produce diffusible proteins, or exotoxins, which include cytolytic enzymes and dimeric toxins with A and B subunits. The exotoxins have specific pharmacological actions and are considered the most powerful and lethal poisons known. Conversely, endotoxins are part of the outer membranes released after cell death. Endotoxin is compositionally a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that, when introduced into the host, gives rise to a large number of pathological manifestations. LPS is continuously shed from periodontal gram-negative rods during their growth in vivo.
  • Metastatic inflammation – Soluble antigen may enter the bloodstream, react with circulating specific antibody, and form a macromolecular complex. These immunocomplexes may give rise to a variety of acute and chronic inflammatory reactions at the sites of deposition.

Most studies concerning the relationship between oral infection and systemic diseases are related to periodontal disease, by far the most common oral infection. Brushing, flossing, and oral rinses are the greatest tools you have to prevent gum disease, and any related diseases that may arise from it.

The doctors and staff at The Colorado Center for Implant and Prosthetic Dentistry are available to help you determine effective solutions to all of your dental problems. If you would like more information from your Littleton area Prosthodontist, please call to make an appointment today.

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