A recent study by the University of Buffalo has revealed that postmenopausal women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of death than their healthier peers. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and revealed that women who had suffered previous bouts of periodontitis with tooth loss were at a seventeen percent higher risk of death than those who did not fit those criteria. Postmenopausal women who suffered from periodontitis but did not lose teeth were still at a 12 percent higher risk of early death than those who did not develop the disease.
The study followed nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women over a seven-year span. The respondents were between the ages of 50 to 79, and the data for the study was collected from 40 health centers around the United States. While none of the reported causes of death were said to be directly attributed to the actual loss of teeth or periodontitis, dentists like Dr. Alexandra George of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania believe that periodontitis is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a person’s overall health.
“The study solidified what many dental professionals have always suspected, that oral health is both a litmus test for the overall health of the body, and that the bacteria introduced to the body through infections like periodontitis can wreak havoc on the entire body,” George said.
George believes that poor oral health can also be a big indicator of if a patient is taking care of her overall well-being or not.
“If you have a patient who is not taking care of her teeth, not getting regular checkups, chances are she’s not going to her other doctor’s appointments, either,” George said.
This means patients could be missing out on lifesaving screenings for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, all of which can be fatal if not treated. For George, the solution is clear.
“Stop putting your health on the back burner,” George said. “Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from going to the dentist or the doctor. If there’s a problem, the longer you wait to treat it, the worse it will get. I would say that periodontitis is definitely a growing health crisis. In fact, it’s estimated that two-thirds of Americans over the age of sixty will suffer from periodontal disease in their lifetime. That’s a lot of added risk for something so easily preventable.”