The Mouth – An Early Warning System

The mouth can act as a very effective early warning system. Problems in the mouth can signal trouble in other parts of the body. Saliva, like blood and urine, can be used to detect and measure many compounds in the body. Saliva collection has the advantage of being noninvasive. Saliva could potentially replace blood testing for diagnosis and monitoring of many diseases.

Recent studies point to associations between oral infections – primarily gum infections – and diabetes; heart disease; stroke; and preterm, low-weight births. To date, there is not enough evidence to conclude that oral infections cause these serious health problems. Research is under way to determine if the associations are causal or coincidental.

Gum infections have been called “the sixth complication of diabetes,” because people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease. Researchers are exploring a possible two-way connection between the conditions to see if treating gum disease improves diabetic control.

Recent studies also point to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke in people with gum infections; the risk increases with the severity of the oral infection.

Some studies have found that mothers of preterm, low birth weight infants tend to have more severe gum disease than mothers of normal birth weight babies.

Regular dental check-ups continue to be the front line in detection of other problems in the body.

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