We all know the expression “the eyes are the window to the soul.” As oral health professionals, we view the mouth as the window to the entire body. Studies have shown that good oral health correlates to better overall health. Contrarily, poor oral health has been linked to a long list of systemic diseases. A 2011 article in Diabetologia found a prominent link between oral health and diabetes.
A multidisciplinary approach to health care has long been a topic of conversation. Unfortunately, most of us have yet to see it materialize. We spoke with Dr. Kenneth Kornman, DDS, PhD, president and Chief Science Officer of Interleukin Genetics, about the importance of medical and dental integration. Interleukin Genetics is developing genetic tests for several systemic diseases using markers for chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked with several systemic diseases, which lead to earlier morbidity and mortality. As a periodontist, Dr. Kornman is especially interested in the link between periodontal disease and systemic disease such as type 2 diabetes. A great way to address chronic systemic disease is to open the lines of communication between the medical and dental care systems.
Interleukin Genetics is developing genetic tests for several systemic diseases using markers for chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked with several systemic diseases, which lead to earlier morbidity and mortality.
Right now very few schools offer courses with combined medical and dental students.
People with diabetes are in a higher risk of oral health problem due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels. According to American Diabetes Association, nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes. Due to less control of their blood sugar, these patients have a higher chance of developing oral health problems. Hyperglycemia, or high level of glucose in the blood, makes the saliva have too much glucose. This helps bacteria grow in the mouth. These bacteria could progress plaque formation which could later cause tooth decay or gum disease. If some plaque does not move over a long period of time, they stay above your gum line and turn to calculus. Calculus makes it difficult to brush and floss between your teeth. The gum may become swollen, tender and easily bleed, especially during brushing. These are signs of gingivitis. Read on to learn more about the oral complications associated with diabetes…
After spending many nights and weekends in the dental lab preparing casts, fabricating custom trays, and setting denture teeth for my patients, I decided to spend a year in a different kind of lab—Dr. Toshi Kawai’s immunology lab at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My decision came after my research experience in Dr. Kawai’s lab during the summer after my first year in dental school. I first met with Dr. Kawai because of my interest in the link between oral and systemic health, specifically diabetes-associated periodontal disease. I took on a project to study ghrelin, a protein found in lower levels in diabetic patients. My work that summer helped demonstrate that ghrelin exhibits anti-microbial properties by protecting other anti-microbial peptides from degradation.