Investigating the mouth-body connection

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.

Integrating care for the good of the patient

Medical staff iconsA 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.

Healthy gums could lead to a healthy heart

Heart health checkupThe association between gum diseases and heart disease is not a secret anymore. It has always raised a question in my mind if maintaining good oral health can help me achieve good overall health. Well, the answer is “yes.” Maintaining good oral health can save us from spending thousands of dollars on preventing heart diseases. We can say that proper brushing and flossing can help us maintain a healthy heart. According to the American Academy of Periodontolgy, people with gum diseases are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease, one of the leading causes of heart attacks.

Student Research Spotlight: P. gingivalis and macrophages in hide and seek

researchThe Boesze-Battaglia lab in the Biochemistry Department at University of Pennsylvania – School of Dental Medicine is investigating P. gingivalis’s journey upon phagocytosis by macrophages and how changes in MREG expression may influence this pathway. We specifically determine whether P. gingivalis can alter endosomal trafficking by effecting MREG expression. Evidence suggests that P. gingivalis escapes immediate degradation through colocalization with MREG and LC3II positive autophagosomes in murine macrophages. This could allow P. gingivalis to survive in nutrient-rich intracellular niches and may be a virulence factor.

Ghrelin’s effects on periodontal health in diabetics

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.