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Can Poor Oral Health Affect the Rest of the Body?

You’re brushing your teeth and you notice that your gums are bleeding.

It’s not a big deal, right? Bleeding gums are common, aren’t they?

While many people experience this symptom of periodontal (gum) disease – that’s just what it is, a disease. And unfortunately, it’s a disease that can have a profound, negative effect on your overall health.

Oral health is so important that the Mayo Clinic has called the mouth the “window to your overall health.”

Today, we’ll evaluate some of the health issues caused by bad oral health. We’ll also discuss steps you can take to reverse poor oral health, thereby protecting your entire body from disease.

What Health Issues Are Caused by Bad Oral Health?

For years, there’s been a disconnect between the dental and medical fields. As we’ve learned about various types of health conditions, what impacts one part of the body can have a bearing on another. Your oral health is no different.

Here are some conditions that researchers have now linked to poor oral health.

1. Cardiovascular Disease

This is the one that’s garnered the most attention in recent years – and for good reason. Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide.

Poor oral hygiene is one of the causes of periodontal disease. Build-up of bacteria-laden plaque and tartar on the teeth and under the gums causes inflammation.

The same bacteria can end up in the bloodstream. Over time, this can lead to inflammation and the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to:

Additionally, the oral bacteria can travel directly to the heart causing an often-fatal infection called endocarditis.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes and gum disease are considered a two-way street. The development of one can lead to the development of the other.

Gum disease can raise blood sugar levels, contributing to diabetes or leading to diabetic complications in patients who already have the disease.

Similarly, high blood sugar levels can increase bacterial growth in the mouth, making patients more susceptible to gum disease and dental decay.

3. Various Cancers (Including Oral Cancer)

A 2017 study found that the existence of periodontal disease increases the risk of oral cancer almost two-fold. This is concerning since oral cancer is the 15th most diagnosed cancer and is gaining momentum, especially in the younger populations. Equally alarming is the fact that the five-year survival rate for patients with oral cancer is around 50%.

What about other types of cancer? Poor oral health can contribute to those as well. Another 2017 study found that women with periodontal disease had a 14% increase in the risk of developing cancers, including:

4. Respiratory Infections

We know that oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to the heart, but it can also travel to the lungs. Once bacteria enter the lungs, it can lead to:

5. Reproductive Issues

Inflammation adversely impacts both male and female reproductive systems. It can lead to:

Thankfully, a 2019 study found that there is no evidence to indicate that gum disease impacts IVF outcomes.

6. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which can be triggered by some type of injury to the body including bacterial infections.

One type of oral bacteria – Porphyromonas gingivalis – contributes to a process in the body that causes changes to proteins in the body. These changes can trigger an immune response, one that specifically targets the lining of the joints.

7. Kidney Disease

A 2019 review of a 10-year study (the Electric Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) study) found that periodontal disease had a significant direct effect on the incidence of chronic kidney disease. There was also an indirect effect through the link between kidney disease, diabetes, and gum disease.

It’s important to note that chronic kidney disease doesn’t just affect the kidneys. It can also damage the heart and bones and lead to blood pressure issues. Kidney disease can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, and eventually, death.

8. Dementia

One of the main bacteria that causes gum disease – Porphyromonas gingivalis – can also contribute to various types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. In fact, recent research has scientists theorizing that this bacterium could be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

The bacterium invades the brain and causes inflammation, amyloid plaques, and neural damage. It appears as if the disease is not responsible for weakening the brain and allowing the bacteria in, which then, in turn, attacks the brain. Instead, it looks like the bacteria might be the main culprit.

In theory, the blood-brain barrier should protect the brain from P. gingivalis and other microbes, but it appears that this bacterium can invade white blood cells and cells that line blood vessels. Additionally, the bacterium may be able to invade cranial nerves near the oral cavity, after which it spreads from cell to cell until it finally reaches the brain.

What Are the Best Dental Hygiene Practices?

Poor oral health can lead to a plethora of health problems. It can also adversely impact your oral health.

Signs of poor oral hygiene include:

Left untreated, gum disease can lead to loose teeth and, eventually, tooth loss.

Thankfully, you can take steps to reverse poor oral hygiene.

Dental Home Care Best Practices

The most important thing you can do to reverse poor oral health is to implement a daily oral hygiene routine.

Your routine should include brushing at least twice a day, if not after every meal. You should also floss at least once each day.

Using tools, such as gum stimulators and an electric toothbrush, can provide even better gum health results.

If you find it difficult to floss your teeth, there are many floss aids on the market that can make the job easier.

In addition to daily dental home care, it’s also important to drink plenty of water and eat a nutrient-dense diet. Fewer simple sugars and processed foods will help you avoid a variety of diseases, including gum disease.

The Importance of Professional Dental Care

Another step you can take is to seek professional dental care from a Santa Barbara dentist. Don’t wait until you have a dental problem to schedule an appointment. Regular, preventative appointments can help you stave off dental decay and periodontal disease.

Get your teeth cleaned every six months (or more often if you have a history of gum disease) to ensure that bacteria-laden tartar is thoroughly removed. Tartar cannot be removed by brushing. You need professional assistance.

Regular dental examinations will help your dentist find issues early, including indications of dental diseases, as well as signs of general health disorders.

Are You Worried about Poor Oral Health? We Can Help!

Until recently, most people weren’t aware of the correlation between their oral health and general health. Finding out that the condition of your teeth and gums can potentially lead to a disease diagnosis can be scary.

Thankfully, you can take steps to prevent dental diseases and serious general health conditions – and we can help! The dental team at See Me Smile Dental & Orthodontics can provide you with practical tips and quality services that can improve your oral health.

With good dental home care and regular dental cleanings, you can not only achieve a more beautiful smile – you can keep your body healthy and strong!

Are you worried about your oral health? Has it been a while since your last periodontal screening? Contact us today to schedule an appointment.