Inflammation of the prostate (also called prostatitis) is a relatively common issue affecting about 12 percent of men, and it’s the most common prostate-related health issue in men under age 50. It’s been associated with a whole host of potential causes, including soft catheter use, bacterial infection, nerve problems – even parasitic infection. So why talk about prostate problems in a dental blog?
Because a study recently published in the journal Dentistry has suggested a new cause for prostatitis: Gum disease.
Multiple studies have linked periodontal disease with plenty of systemic health risks, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, stroke and low fetal birth weight (and of course, tooth loss). But the current study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Departments of Urology and Pathology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center are the first to establish a clear link between gum disease and prostate infection.
The study looked at 27 men with prostatitis and moderate to severe gum disease. Each of the men underwent treatment for gum disease, showing significant improvement in their periodontal symptoms in just one to two months. While that result wasn’t surprising, what was surprising is that 21 of the 27 men also experienced improvement in the symptoms of prostatitis – even though they received no separate treatment for that condition. Plus, the study found men with more severe or advanced prostate inflammation benefited the most.
At the end of the study, the researcher were so impressed by the association between periodontal care and the reduction in prostate symptoms, they hope to make gum disease exams and treatments a part of the regular standard of care for men suffering from prostate problems, just as gum disease evaluation and treatment is recommended for women who are considering becoming pregnant or for those who must undergo heart surgery.
Gum Disease and the Risks to Overall Health
There are plenty of bacteria in the mouth – about 200 to 300 different types. Many of these bacteria are essential for breaking down food products and maintaining a healthy balance in the mouth to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. But some of these tiny organisms can build up to levels that become harmful to teeth and gums, causing decay and periodontal disease including gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, and periodontitis, the later stage.
Gum disease develops when sticky plaque on tooth surfaces turns to hard tartar, providing an ideal place for bacteria to hide and multiply. And because tartar tends to build up along gum lines where it’s difficult to brush, it’s easy for bacteria to get beneath the gum and into the blood stream. From there, it’s a quick “ride” to the rest of the body and its organs and tissues, including the prostate gland and heart.
Do you have gum disease?
Unfortunately, the answer is most likely “yes.” In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate about half of all adults in the U.S. have gum disease, the leading cause of adult tooth loss in this country. The only way to know for sure if you have gum disease and how serious it may be is to schedule an exam with a periodontist. Unlike your family dentist, a periodontist is specifically trained in uncovering gum disease in its earliest stages, even before symptoms like swollen, tender gums start to appear. Having an exam – and getting any necessary treatment – as early as possible is the best way to ensure you keep your teeth and avoid potential health risks like prostate inflammation, heart disease, stroke and other medical problems.
If you haven’t been evaluated for gum disease, call our office at 615-370-9486 today to set up your exam with a periodontist in Nashville TN. We can help you take a simple but critical step toward preserving your teeth and your health.