Over the past few years, research has shown that poor oral health contributes to more than just cavities, bad breath and gum disease. It has been found to cause or contribute to everything from heart disease to diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and even stroke. But new research is linking poor oral health - or more specifically gum disease - to the illness lupus.
Lupus is a thus-far-incurable, chronic immune disease that affects approximately 1.5 million Americans. In a patient with lupus, the body’s immune system malfunctions, attacking healthy cells instead of damaged cells. Lupus isn’t focused to just one area of the body, either – it can affect the joints, the organs and even the skin, and now researchers believe it could be related to gum disease.
"The study showed that patients who have both gum disease and lupus had more severe symptoms than those without gum disease," says Dr. Gary Lederman, a dentist practicing in Bellmore, New York.
Researchers believe the link is due to inflammation.
"Lupus already causes inflammation," says Lederman, "but so does gum disease."
Researchers hypothesize that the inflammation from one illness is basically feeding the other. In fact, they believe that lupus patients who improve their oral care routine may be able to lessen the severity of their symptoms.
"Just by flossing," says Lederman.
Lederman and the authors of the study agree: Maintaining good oral health is paramount to total body health.
"We are just beginning to understand the implications of gum disease and poor oral health," says Lederman. "But if we already know how easy it is to cut your risk of so many serious and deadly diseases just by flossing, why not add that extra minute or two to your routine? It could very well save your life."