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The Surprising Connection Between Oral Health and Well Being

The CDC has listed oral health as one of the 12 leading health indicators in the United States. Proper oral health is crucial for everyday tasks such as speaking, smiling, eating, etc. Those with poor oral health have issues with these tasks and can have pain or costly health conditions resulting from tooth decay and infection.

Tooth decay is the most chronic childhood disease and plaque build up can lead to cavities, gingivitis, or severe gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, affects about half of all Americans age 30 and older and has potentially serious health risks. Dr. Keiko Watanabe, a Professor of Periodontics and researcher from UIC College of Dentistry ran preliminary studies on mice to research the connection between periodontal disease to Alzheimer's Disease and pre-diabetes.

Dr. Watanabe found that mice that were exposed to the bacteria in periodontitis developed neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and senile plaque formation that was similar to Alzheimer's found in humans. The exposure of this bacteria also had an adverse effect on the mice’s pancreatic and liver cells by causing insulin resistance and glucose intolerance which are signs of pre-diabetes.

These findings were shocking to Dr. Watanabe who said, “We did not expect that the periodontal pathogen would have this much influence on the brain, or that the effects would so thoroughly resemble Alzheimer's Disease.” Dr. Watanabe also previously discovered that periodontitis may affect the brain’s metabolism, the liver, and the heart.

While gum disease is common and serious, it is also preventable. Oral health can be maintained with healthy diet choices and good hygiene habits. By maintaining your oral health, you are increasing our overall wellness and can potentially prevent more serious illnesses in the future.


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