Research has shown that poor oral health, especially gum disease, is strongly linked to serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and brain health. Even more surprisingly, poor oral health and or gum disease can have adverse effects during pregnancy.
The reason your dental health affects your overall health is largely due to bacteria. As a warm, moist environment, you mouth is the ideal place for bacteria to thrive. Your mouth is literally teeming with bacteria. Most forms of bacteria in your mouth are harmless, but some are not.
Normally those bacteria can be controlled by regular brushing and proper flossing. Without proper oral hygiene, though, certain nasty bacteria can penetrate your bloodstream through a cut, infection, or dental problems in your mouth like tooth decay or gum disease. Once in your bloodstream, this can lead to different health issues such as:
· Cardiovascular disease – Gingivitis (oral inflammation due to bacteria) may be a contributing factor to clogged arteries and blood clots. Bacteria damage the lining of the arteries. Once damaged, plaque builds up on the inside and over time, hardening the arteries, and cutting off the blood flow to the heart. This increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Research suggests that people with gum disease may also have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke; the more severe the infection, the greater the risk appears to be. Research also shows that people with gum disease and tooth loss have a higher percent of carotid artery plaque.
· Poorly controlled diabetes – Diabetes and gum disease go hand in hand. If you have diabetes, the risk of developing gum disease is increased. Many kinds of bacteria thrive on sugars, including the sugar linked to diabetes (glucose). When not controlled, glucose levels become high in the saliva and may help germs grow, setting the stage for gum disease. Studies show that people with chronic gum disease may have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.
· Preterm birth – The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that each year, as many as 18% of premature, low birth weight babies in the US may be attributed to oral infections. Oral bacteria is thought to release toxins that reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream, interfering with the growth and development of the fetus. The oral infection is thought to cause the mother to produce labor inducing substances too quickly, triggering premature labor and birth.
· Osteoporosis – Periodontal bone and tooth loss is thought to be linked with osteoporosis (bones become weak and brittle). A study conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo concluded that post-menopausal women who suffered from osteoporosis were 86% more likely to have periodontal disease.
· Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – A recent study may have found a link connecting gum disease and poor dental health to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This is the first time that a specific gum disease bacterial was found in the brain. These bacteria may play a role in changing the brain and contributing to symptoms which include confusion and failing memories.
Studies have shown that there are other conditions that may also be linked to oral health, including rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, Sjogren’s syndrome (an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth), and even eating disorders. To help protect your oral health and improve your overall health, you need to practice good oral hygiene every day. For example:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes at a time
- Floss daily (and sometime between meals)
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Sooner if bristles are frayed.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary snacks.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Avoid tobacco use!
When faced with serious health issues, it’s easy to see the need to visit your dental office to improve your overall health. If you are bothered by gum disease and would like to improve your oral health or have any other dental needs, please call Hagerman Dental Care at (651) 646-2392, or request an appointment online. We will make your dental and oral health our top priority.