Keeping your teeth and gums healthy and free from bacteria does much more than just give you a beautiful smile and strong choppers. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you’ll know that one’s dental health can impact overall health in many ways that might not be immediately obvious. In fact, the Mayo Clinic goes as far as to say that one’s dental health is “a window to your overall health.” Bacteria and the inflammation associated with gum disease is thought to play a significant role in various diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. So, why should your eyesight be any different? A case-control study published in the Journal of Glaucoma and reported on in Optometry Times suggests that there might be a similar connection between your oral health and your eyesight. The findings show a possible relationship between dental hygiene and the risk of glaucoma.
Dental Hygiene and Glaucoma: A Case Study
The purpose of this study was to look at the possible relationship between the oral cavity’s bacterial flora (the oral biomicrome) and the presence of glaucoma. A total of 19 adults who showed signs of primary open-angle glaucoma (chronic glaucoma) were examined, in addition to 78 control subjects without glaucoma. In the study, mouthwash samples were collected from 28 African-American subjects, which was the largest racial group included, and 17 of the control subjects. Researchers tested these samples for bacterial DNA, an indication of bacterial load. There were measurements taken of the number of natural teeth remaining, dental health history and habits, presence and amounts of various oral bacteria types and the presence of diabetes and hypertension (case and control groups had similar incidences). The ages of the subjects were also noted. The researchers especially wanted to know if this relationship between oral health and glaucoma was causal or just a correlation.
What Were the Findings?
The study found that streptococcus bacteria was significantly higher among those with glaucoma than in those without. This clearly confirms that there is some sort of relationship between the oral biomicrome and primary open-angle glaucoma. However, this raises that primary question of causality versus correlation.
Bacteria and Oral Inflammation May Be the Key
When one’s oral health is poor, bacteria can take hold, which may lead to oral inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to various other medical conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease. This study would seem to confirm that certain bacteria acts as a catalyst for the immune system’s inflammatory response. This inflammation can then cause stress on cellular tissues and eventually damage. The link between inflammation and cellular stress has been shown in the trabecular meshwork, an area of eye tissue that’s found at the base of the cornea.
The Connection Between Oral Hygiene and Glaucoma
The findings of this pilot study show the need to continue examining the glaucoma and oral hygiene relationship. From the perspective of optometrists, while there have been major advancements in diagnosing glaucoma, there is much room for improvement in finding effective therapy for this complex disease. If a causal relationship between glaucoma and oral hygiene is found, they would be better able to offer more specific guidelines to their patients, rather than just advocating healthy living. With greater knowledge of molecular and cellular causes of glaucoma, future glaucoma therapies could be more specifically targeted to the individual.
In the meantime, keep brushing and flossing!