By Jennifer Garvin New York - Feb. 23, 2006 "Who benefits from medicine and dentistry working together? The patient!" That question, posed by ADA Executive Director James Bramson, kicked off Thursday's joint media conference hosted by the ADA and American Medical Association, part of the ADA's national campaign to educate the public about the relationship between oral health and overall health. "Oral health conditions and other health conditions are more closely related than many may once have thought," Dr. Bramson said, "and viewing them as separate matters no longer makes sense." Dr. Bramson, along with AMA trustee Samantha Cramoy, M.D., and Dr. Foti Panagakos, public relations director for Colgate-Palmolive, provided the opening remarks for the historic event, which marked the first time the ADA and AMA have worked together on a media briefing. The conference, "Oral and Systemic Health: Exploring the Connection," addressed periodontal inflammation; diabetes and periodontal disease; oral infections and cardiovascular risk factors; and pregnancy risks and periodontal disease. Additionally, a new report linking smoking and root canals was discussed. Dr. Michael Glick, editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association, moderated the conference. About 25 journalists—from media outlets as diverse as abcnews.com, Self magazine, Dentistry Today and Scientific American—attended. "The biggest question is whether there is a casual relationship or a causal relationship and we don't know," Dr. Glick said. "The closest thing we have is the research from Dr. [Steven] Offenbacher and the evidence suggests that some women may benefit from periodontal intervention in order to minimize adverse pregnancy outcomes." "This kind of research is life and death," said Dr. Louis F. Rose, a periodontist and physician. "We can't overstate it, but we must inform the public." Dr. Robert J. Genco, editor of the Journal of Periodontology, began the conference with a presentation on "Periodontal Inflammation and Your Health" and estimated that 80 percent of adult Americans have some form of periodontal disease. He stressed the need for enhanced communication between dentists and physicians to keep patients' risks for heart disease and stroke, premature births, worsening diabetic control and lung infections low.
"The fact that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body is often overlooked," said Dr. Genco, who is a professor of oral biology and microbiology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Rose spoke about the relationship between diabetes and oral health. "Many of my patients know that their diabetes puts them at a greater risk of heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage, but they know very little about their risk for periodontal disease and infection," said Dr. Rose, a surgery professor at the Drexel University School of Medicine and a clinical professor of periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Rose said that although periodontal disease and diabetes differ in their manifestations, both are chronic and appear to have a genetic component. "The research is astounding," he said, "and points to the same conclusion: the relationship is cyclical. Periodontal disease, if left untreated, will adversely affect a patient's diabetes and vice versa." Good oral health isn't the only way to combat a risk for heart disease, said Moise Desvarieux, M.D., an epidemiologist and professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Patients must also manage other risk factors for the disease. "It appears a relationship exists, but we don't know exactly what it is and if it's a causal relationship," Dr. Desvarieux said, "therefore, we can't make recommendations for people with periodontal disease in respect to cardiovascular disease."
The event was part of the "Oral-Systemic Education Campaign," the ADA's campaign with Colgate that was announced in October 2005. Other components of the campaign are set to roll out in the upcoming weeks and months and include: an announcement letter to ADA members, a resource kit for dentists and hygienists that contains patient education materials and a tube of Colgate Total, a symposium at the 2006 ADA annual session and a JADA supplement on the oral-systemic connection. Other speakers included Elizabeth Krall Kaye, Ph.D., director, epidemiology division, department of health policy and health services research, Boston University, and Dr. Steven Offenbacher, director, Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases, University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.