Researchers continue to uncover evidence linking oral health and overall health and the latest example examines the possible relationship between periodontitis and prostatitis.
What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a common but serious gum infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth and is often the result of poor oral hygiene. Symptoms include swollen and sensitive gums, loosening of teeth and bad breath. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss and has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.
What is prostatitis?
Prostatitis is swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland, a walnut-size gland associated with the male reproductive system. Symptoms include pain or burning when urinating, difficulty urinating, frequent urination and pain in the abdomen, groin or lower back. In many cases of prostatitis, the cause is not identified. When a cause is identified, a bacterial infection is often the culprit. Immune system disorders, nervous system disorders or injury to the prostate area can also cause prostatitis.
What is the relation between periodontitis and prostate health?
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is an enzyme created in the prostate that is normally secreted in very small amounts. When the prostate becomes inflamed, infected or affected by cancer, PSA levels rise. Research has shown that men with indicators of periodontal disease and prostatitis have higher levels of PSA than men with only one of these conditions.
In one such study by Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, researchers selected 35 men, most of them patients who had mild to severe periodontitis and in some cases, also suffered from prostate cancer. All had not had dental work done for at least three months and were given an exam to measure their gum health. The results found that those patients with the most severe form of prostatitis also showed signs of periodontitis.
What can we do to decrease our risk?
Risk factors for prostatitis include:
- Being a young or middle-ages man
- Having a bladder or urethra infection
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Having unprotected sex
- Using an urinary catheter
The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of periodontitis is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine:
- Brush twice a day and floss once daily.
- Schedule regular dental check-ups so your dentist or hygienist can examine your teeth, plaque levels and gums and evaluate any risk factors you may have for periodontal disease.