The Link Between Poor Oral Health and Poor Overall Health
Many people do not consider their teeth and gums in the context of their overall bodies. But your mouth is a system that is not only connected to other systems in your body but is used to consume foods, drink liquids, and even breathe. Tooth pain, bleeding gums, and persistent bad breath are all signs of poor oral health, but you can have health issues in your mouth long before such symptoms manifest.
Controlling the bacteria in your mouth is important, and you can do that with a consistent at-home oral hygiene regimen and regular visits to your dentist. Left unchecked, the bacteria that leads to poor oral health can leave the mouth via your bloodstream where it can then travel throughout the body and cause inflammation, infections, and even more serious health complications.
- Cancer – The journal Cancer Prevention Research published a study that demonstrated a link between poor oral health and mouth and throat cancers. It is believed that people with poor oral health are more susceptible to the viruses that can cause these cancers. Using tobacco obviously puts you at greater risk of cancer, but there is also a correlation between gum disease and some cancers, and kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers are more prevalent in people who have teeth, gum, and other oral issues.
- Cardiovascular Disease – People with oral health issues are also at great risk of heart disease. Gum disease can be quite serious when it develops into periodontal disease. That bacteria can enter the bloodstream. It will then accumulate in the blood vessels as plaque and eventually harden. This serious condition is called atherosclerosis, and it restricts blood flow and puts you at greater risk of cardiac arrest. Damage to the arteries can lead to high blood pressure and even strokes. Another potential problem is endocarditis, which is when the bacteria from your mouth attacks the chambers and valves of your health.
- Kidney Disease – Infections anywhere in the body, including gum disease, can lead to kidney disease, and kidney disease is much more prevalent in people who are also suffering from poor oral health. This is because people with oral health problems generally experience weakened immune systems and so are at greater risk. Kidney disease can be quite serious and not only damage the kidney but your heart and bones, and it can eventually lead to kidney failure as well as cardiovascular disease.
- Respiratory Infections – Your lungs and other aspects of your respiratory system can suffer due to poor oral health as well. If you have teeth or gums that are infected, then you have an abundance of bad bacteria that can be breathed through the lungs as well as reach the respiratory system through your bloodstream. That bacteria can cause respiratory infections and even lead to and exacerbate pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and COPD.
- Diabetes – Diabetics are more prone to infections, and that includes gingivitis and the more serious periodontitis. This can create a nasty cycle because periodontal disease makes managing diabetes much more difficult. Gum disease can cause sugar levels to fluctuate unpredictably and thus worsen diabetic symptoms. People who already have diabetes must take great care of their oral health in order to avoid complications. Gum disease causes higher sugar levels in people without diabetes as well, and left untreated, puts a person at much greater risk of developing the disease.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society warns that rheumatoid arthritis is four times more common in people with gum disease. Inflammation is the key. The same bacteria that can inflame your gums can cause inflammation throughout your body. This puts you at much greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic, painful, and often debilitating condition.
- Infertility – Medical research has found a correlation between oral health complications and female infertility. Gum disease can affect the body systemically and make it difficult for a woman to conceive or even sustain the pregnancy if conception does occur. The available data also shows that women with poor oral health take longer to get pregnant than women without gum disease and other oral issues.
- Pregnancy Issues – Practicing good oral hygiene is an important aspect of managing your pregnancy. Women should be aware that the hormonal changes in their bodies can make them more susceptible to oral infections. Any infection—even something relatively minor like gingivitis—can cause problems with the pregnancy, and gum disease is known to cause premature births as well as low birth weights. Expecting mothers should therefore be proactive and schedule a visit with their dentist at any sign of a potential problem.
- Erectile Dysfunction – Men who have poor oral health are at a much greater risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction. In fact, there is a strong link between ED and chronic periodontal disease. Long-term gum disease causes the gums to recede. The bacteria from the infected gums can then enter the bloodstream and inflame blood vessels, which can impede blood flow throughout the body and make achieving erections more difficult.
- Dementia – Poor oral health can even affect your brain. Researchers have found that infections cause various substances that kill brain cells and can cause memory loss. As bacteria from the mouth spreads to your nerve channels, it can lead to or exacerbate Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Preventing Health Complications
Achieving good oral health and thereby avoiding these potential health complications is rather simple. Practice good oral hygiene on a consistent basis and schedule regular checkups with your dentist.
The American Dental Association recommends:
- Brushing for two minutes twice a day
- Flossing once a day
- Using a fluoride toothpaste and therapeutic mouthwash
- Limiting sugary and acidic foods and drinks
- Eating a well-balanced and oral-health-friendly diet
- Avoiding all tobacco products
Protect Your Total Health With Great Dental Care
Your oral health is an indicator of your overall health. Dentists are often the first health care providers to diagnose health problems, and they are imperative to avoiding, reversing, and managing the periodontal diseases that can cause more serious problems throughout your body. Is it time for your next dental checkup and cleaning? Let Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, and his entire team at Scottsdale Dental Excellence help you be as healthy as possible. Call us at 480 585 1853 to schedule your appointment.