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Relationship of Oral Pathogens to Systemic Disease

“As one of the top oral biology departments in the country, students interact with some of the best in fundamental oral science.”

          Michael Russell 

          Professor, Oral Biology

Several faculty members of the Department of Oral Biology are investigating aspects of potentially important connections between poor oral health and systemic diseases.

One such study is the response of the periodontium to dental plaque by the process of inflammation.  Plaque is composed of numerous bacteria, comprising over 400 species, which tenaciously adhere to the tooth surface.  A consequence of this inflammatory process is ulceration of the gingival sulcular epithelium, which allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream. 

Exposure to these bacteria over a long period of time (as is typical of people who do not receive regular dental care) may contribute to tissue injury, leading to systemic diseases such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), diabetes melitus (sugar), and low birth weight/prematurity. 

Lung diseases such as hospital-acquired pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may also be associated with poor oral health, since the bacteria from the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lower airway.