Gum disease (periodontitis) is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.

If you follow this column, you probably already know that periodontitis is caused by microorganisms and the toxic enzymes they secrete. Interaction of the host’s immune system with these organisms leads to the destruction of the gum and underlying bone that support the teeth. You probably also have heard that once these microscopic creatures make inroads into your gums and then invade your vascular system, they will continue to infiltrate your body through these blood vessels and impact different organ systems.

Cardiovascular disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic and other types of cancer and even Alzheimer’s have been linked to the presence of these “germs” in the affected organs.

With the “flu season” coming, you should know that respiratory infectious diseases such as bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis are common in the flu season, especially in institutionalized and elderly inpatients. It is believed that respiratory infection relies in part on the swallowing (aspiration) of oral bacteria into the lower respiratory tract and failure of host (patient) defense mechanisms to eliminate the contaminating bacteria, which then multiply to cause infection. Dental plaque, which accumulates between your dental visits, is the reservoir for these nasty microorganisms.

So, whether you decide to take the flu shot or not, do take time to see your dentist and have the plaque removed, at least.

Prevent gum disease. Prevent pneumonia.

Have a great holiday season!

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