With the 2012 London Paralympics coming up, lots of folks are talking about just how inspiring it is to see athletes with physical disabilities push themselves faster and farther than many non-disabled competitors can. (Just look up South African sprinter Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius.) Paralympians push the envelope, regardless of whether they're blind, have amputated limbs or are partially paralyzed.
While they may not sound connected, paralysis and gum disease are actually interrelated. That, anyway, was the determination of a new study, published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene.
For it, dental hygienist Amy Sullivan, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, interviewed people with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) about their oral health. Specifically, she asked them their opinions of their dental hygiene, as well as of their levels of tooth decay and gum disease.
Sullivan found that people with SCIs tend to perceive their mouths to be healthier than dental checkups reveal them to be. She determined that, of the 75 percent of participants who had periodontal disease, three out of five didn't know they had it at all.
A similar (but quantitative) study, published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that people with SCIs are also more likely than non-disabled people to actually have gum disease. The authors noted that quadriplegic individuals are particularly at risk for periodontal disease.
Fortunately, specialty breath freshening periotherapy rinses can help treat such oral health issues.
Why might those with paralysis suffer more from gum disease? Researchers note that people with quadriplegia often have more trouble performing their oral healthcare routine. Such individuals may also have feeding tubes, which can increase the risk of gum disease and halitosis.
Furthermore, this population may be unaware that they are at an increased risk of gum disease. The authors of the new study noted that more public education and better oral care for people with SCIs may be the answer.