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Dentists's equipment

Diseases can be predicted from the oral microbiome in the future

Oral inflammatory diseases have been linked to, e.g., cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. “The significance of the oral microbiome is of great interest right now. We are just starting to understand how wide the spectrum of microbes is,” Professor of Translational Dentistry Pirkko Pussinen says.

The professorship in translational dentistry established at the University of Eastern Finland is the first of its kind in Finland. Pirkko Pussinen was invited to the post, which she took up in May.

“In translational research, basic research gets linked with clinical work with patients. My own research can also be considered translational, between the mouth and the rest of the body.”

Pussinen studies the significance of the most common chronic oral diseases – periodontitis and caries – for general health. There is already plenty of evidence on the association of periodontitis, or periodontal disease, with other diseases.

“Periodontitis is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 20–50%, for example.”

Various studies have also linked periodontitis to diabetes, stroke, elevated blood pressure, disturbed lipid metabolism, pneumonia, dementia, fatty liver disease and cancer. 

“Untreated oral inflammation causes and maintains a slight inflammatory state throughout the body, which makes one susceptible to many diseases.”

Caries and periodontitis are biofilm diseases resulting from an unbalanced oral microbiome. In addition to a local inflammation in the mouth, harmful bacteria cause a wider inflammatory and immune response in the body, which may also lead to autoimmunity that damages tissues. Bacteria and parts of them spread from the mouth to other parts of the body, including circulation and, through saliva, the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteria can also invade inflammatory cells and travel with them. 

The spectrum of microbes we know has expanded a lot, but much remains to be charted.

Pirkko Pussinen

Professor

Pirkko Pussinen.

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