Your oral health is a major component of your overall well-being.
Although you may not know it, health issues that begin in your mouth can diminish your health. Likewise, other health conditions can have a big impact on your dental health. Taking care of your mouth is important because it’s the primary way nutrients enter your body. Your mouth can also be a primary route for bacteria to escape into your major internal systems. When your mouth isn’t in prime condition, you can open the door to these serious health issues.
According to the World Health Organization, about half of the world’s population suffers from at least some form of oral disease. “Oral disease” includes everything from simple tooth decay or tooth loss to more complex periodontal disease and oral cancers. One recent study showed that advanced periodontal disease patients are 40% more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions. Left untreated, oral disease opens the door to a wide range of other serious health problems. These conditions can shorten your lifespan and diminish your quality of life.
Doctors clearly recognize that certain oral habits – like smoking and chewing tobacco – can cause cancer. They also note that people with poor oral hygiene have a greater risk for developing kidney, pancreatic and blood cancers. This seems reasonable, given the ability of oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream easily. It also seems plausible, considering the kidneys’ role in filtering the bloodstream.
A small English study studied the brains of 20 deceased people, 10 of whom had dementia. 40% of the dementia sufferers also had the bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, in their brains. P. gingivalis is one of the main bacteria found in periodontal disease and is adept at hiding from the human immune system. This bad actor also migrates to the respiratory and digestive systems and may play a role in rheumatoid arthritis.
Diabetes is a major health complication that many people encounter as they age. Diabetes occurs when your body does not produce any insulin (Type 1 diabetes). It also occurs when your body is resistant to insulin and later produces too little insulin (Type 2 diabetes) to manage your blood glucose level effectively. If not well managed, diabetes can do a lot of hidden damage to your major organs. It can affect every major system in your body. It can do permanent damage to your eyesight and your peripheral nervous system. Left untreated, diabetes will kill you. So, what does diabetes have to do with your oral health? Diabetic patients are more likely to develop severe infections. Poor oral health leads to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an excellent route into the body for bacteria. Worse, periodontal disease can also complicate good blood sugar control. Poor oral health can frustrate a diabetic patient’s ability to control blood glucose levels and limit the disease’s damage.
One of the key signs of poor oral health is gum inflammation or gum disease. Gum disease begins when common oral bacteria make their way below the gum line. Once below the gum line, bacteria can enter your bloodstream. This can lead to a hardening of the arteries called atherosclerosis. The walls of your arteries stiffen as they accumulate plaque. They narrow, restricting blood flow to your heart, lungs and brain. In fact, 9 out of 10 people with periodontal disease also have some form of heart disease. Arterial plaque can also cause blood flow problems for other important organs like your liver and kidneys. Blood flow restrictions cause high blood pressure, which increases your risk of stroke. Additionally, you can develop potentially fatal endocarditis, an inflammation of the inner lining of the heart.
Kidney disease is more common among people with poor oral hygiene. In addition, kidney disease can lead to other health compromises, like cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that women with poor oral health have more difficulty conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy to full term. Gingivitis and periodontal disease in a pregnant mother can also lead to both premature births and low birth weights. Poor health outcomes aren’t limited to women, either. There is a connection between erectile dysfunction and poor oral hygiene in men. Likewise, men with poor oral hygiene suffer a higher incidence of prostatitis. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through diseased gums and can then cause circulatory problems – including erectile dysfunction. In addition, men with poor oral hygiene experience problems with painful ejaculations, painful urination and increased urination frequency.
Your mouth is awash in bacteria. Because your mouth is also part of your respiratory system, you can inhale oral bacteria into your lungs. These unwelcome guests can set up shop in your lungs, causing pneumonia, bronchitis and other diseases. Oral bacteria may even play a role in the development of debilitating Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
People with periodontal disease are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, and the likelihood isn’t small. Periodontal disease sufferers also have RA at a rate 4 times greater than the healthy population. Among the chief characteristics of RA and periodontal disease is inflammation. Oral bacteria in the bloodstream is a known risk for causing inflammation elsewhere in the body. Oral bacteria in the bloodstream may not cause RA, but it can make the condition worse.
Maintaining good oral health is key to minimizing your risk of developing chronic health conditions. At Viewpoint Dentistry, we offer state-of-the-art dental care in a relaxing, pain free setting. Please give us a call at (509) 946-9313 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.