People often don’t realize just how much their oral health can dictate the health of the rest of their body. Oral health—the health of the gums, teeth, and mouth in general— has been linked to a number of medical conditions. This is because the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body. If bacteria builds up and forms plaque on and in between the teeth, it can eventually lead to a serious gum infection/disease called periodontitis. This infection could spread to other parts of the body or cause inflammation that could contribute to other medical conditions. In other cases, medical conditions themselves can lead to problems with dental health. In both circumstances, here are 5 health problems linked to poor oral health:
Oral health has been linked to pregnancy complications, making it more important than ever for pregnant women to practice good dental hygiene. Hormone changes during a pregnancy can cause all types of atypical behaviors, including swollen gums, which increases the chance of getting periodontal disease. Periodontal disease/gum infection is linked to premature birth and low birth weight. The idea is that bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and reach the placenta. There, it could influence the development of the fetus. If you’re pregnant, it may be a good idea to keep up more regular teeth cleanings until your baby is born to avoid possible complications.
While poor oral health doesn’t outright cause heart disease, the two have very strong ties to each other. Similar to the link with pregnancy, the issue lies in the increased bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation to arteries, which can build up plaque and clog them. Clogged arteries can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. This risk heightens the more serious the infection is.
Your risk for blood cancers, kidney cancer, and pancreatic cancer can be higher if your oral health is subpar. However, the association with oral health and cancer is usually flipped, where cancer (or more accurately, cancer treatment) is the cause of oral health problems. Cancer treatment can lead to an array of issues with the mouth. Radiation near the head or neck can cause mouth sores and jaw pain, and general treatment can cause dry mouth and and sensitive gums. It’s very important that you keep your dentist informed about your diagnosis and treatment if you have cancer.
Diabetes and periodontitis unfortunately have somewhat of a symbiotic relationship. For one thing, inflammation in the mouth can lead to higher blood sugar, because it weakens the body’s ability to utilize insulin (the hormone that turns sugar into energy). This makes diabetes harder to control. The symbiosis comes into play because higher blood sugar levels also encourage gum disease, so the two can fuel each other. The good news is that this also means that if you bring one under control you can also improve the other.
Periodontal disease can worsen respiratory infections such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. Dental plaque and bacteria can get into the lungs, which contributes to the infection.
It’s clear that the health of your body can be influenced by the health of your mouth. The biggest takeaway? Prioritize your oral health and take proper care of your teeth and gums by regularly flossing and brushing. This will prevent the buildup of plaque, which in turn will help you avoid periodontitis and the problems that it can cause. Teeth cleanings are also vital. If you need to make an appointment to get your teeth cleaned or have more questions about how your oral health is connected to your general health, visit our website or contact Artistic Dental us at (602) 840-5400.