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Contempo Updates
September 13, 2000

Relationship of Dental and Oral Pathology to Systemic Illness

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Office of the Director (Dr Slavkin) and Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch (Dr Baum), National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.


Contempo Updates Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(10):1215-1217. doi:10.1001/jama.284.10.1215

The classic dental diseases, caries and periodontal disease, are commonly thought to have little effect on systemic health. These diseases result from infections by microbes with highly specific adhesion mechanisms in the mouth.1 Systemic disease resulting from infectious oral microbes is generally recognized to occur in patients with immunological and nutritional deficiencies, such as when individual host defenses are compromised, allowing oral microbes to gain systemic access. Systemic complications from oral microbes are usually thought to be confined to only a few specific clinical scenarios, such as bacterial endocarditis.2 Given this perspective, it is understandable that primary care physicians pay little attention to oral microbial infections and dental diseases.3