Oral disease and its impact on overall health

We have all heard the saying “Your mouth is the window to your overall health” and with advances in modern medicine we are realising that this is more scientific fact than just a saying. Your oral health is more important than you realise and can offer clues about your overall health.

Studies conducted throughout the years have found a significant link between oral health and general health and wellbeing.

Our mouths are the entry point for many disease-causing bacteria. Research says that poor oral health and bleeding gums (caused due to Gum Disease or periodontal disease) could allow bacteria to escape into the bloodstream and put you at risk of life-threatening clots.

While oral conditions are often considered separate from other chronic conditions, they are in fact interrelated. A lot of research has been devoted to the subject with many studies validating the harmful effects of oral health on the health of the heart and many other vital organs.

A Cleveland clinic study found that the bacteria that travel from your mouth into your bloodstream can cause elevated C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels that can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

According to The Mayo Clinic, this spread of bacteria — and other germs — from your mouth to other parts of your body through the bloodstream, can result in illnesses such as endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart.

The American Heart Association, too, has determined that cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and stroke are linked to inflammation caused by oral bacteria.

One proven way of keeping these harmful bacteria at bay is maintaining good oral health — brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily. However, if you fail to do so, there’s a looming danger of bacteria reaching levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease, which in turn could lead to debilitating diseases.

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Conditions linked to oral disease

  • Endocarditis. Endocarditis is a life-threatening inflammation of the inner lining of your heart’s chambers and valves. It is usually caused by an infection when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Although still inconclusive, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications. Due to the increase in hormone levels, pregnant women are at greater risk of developing inflamed gums, which if left untreated, can lead to periodontal disease. A five-year study conducted at the University of North Carolina found that pregnant women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to have a premature birth and deliver babies with low birth weight.
  • Pneumonia. An increasing body of research has found that certain bacteria in your mouth can travel to your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are more at risk of developing dental problems, the reason being having too much sugar in your blood can lead to high levels of sugar in your saliva too — the perfect breeding ground for decay-causing bacteria.
    Many recent studies have suggested there could be a ‘two-way’ relationship between diabetes and periodontitis. As per these findings not only is diabetes a risk factor for periodontitis, but periodontitis could have a negative effect on glucose levels.

Besides the possibility of developing health problems, oral disease can also lead to difficulty speaking, chewing, and swallowing, affecting your ability to consume the nourishment you need to stay healthy, participate in daily activities and socialise.

To ensure your teeth, gums and body are healthy, follow these guidelines:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily to help remove plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that get stuck between your teeth and gums.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a check-up and your hygienist for a professional dental cleaning to help prevent any problems and detect possible problems in their early stages.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet, which will help you maintain a healthier immune system.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco use.

At Micris Dental Clinic we have an amazing team of dentists and dental hygienists who use the most sophisticated dental technologies to perform professional cleanings and detect and treat gum disease respectively. Our dental specialists make sure to educate patients about proper oral hygiene, which can help prevent oral disease. Call us today to schedule your appointment.