We really shouldn’t need to know there are links between oral health and overall health to motivate us to maintain an effective daily oral hygiene routine and to see our dentists regularly for cleanings, checkups, and treatment as indicated. After all, nobody wants mouth pain, an unsightly smile, bad breath, or the lack of self-confidence and negative effect that the damaged smile or halitosis can have on others.
Still, we all lead busy lives, and many of us feel the temptation to skimp on oral hygiene when things are hectic or postpone that dental appointment when everything seems fine. So perhaps it will nudge us in the right direction to know that dental health is indeed linked to overall health in multiple ways.
One of the strongest links is that between general health and gum disease.
Dental Health, General Health, and Periodontal Disease
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is the result of a bacterial infection. You may well be in the early stages if your gums are swollen or bleeding. Left untreated, gum disease can damage the structures that support your teeth in your jawbone, loosening them and possibly necessitating extraction.
As noted above, periodontal disease often results from failure to maintain an effective dental health routine. This means the individual isn’t brushing and flossing regularly and/or effective and isn’t seeing his or her dentist as often as recommended. But there can be other predisposing factors as well.
Dental Health and Gum Disease: Risk Factors
Genetics. Unfortunately, you may have a genetic predisposition.
Poor nutrition. If you don’t eat right, your immune system will be less able to fight infections including gum disease.
Stress also weakens the immune system.
Crowded or misaligned teeth, bridgework, or braces.These make it more difficult to floss effectively. When you don’t floss effectively, you get the plaque buildup that fosters harmful bacteria.
Teeth grinding or clenching.Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, doesn’t cause gum disease in and of itself, but it can make it worse. (If you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep, your dentist may recommend a night guard.)
Medications. Certain medications including high blood pressure medications, diuretics, and antidepressants can cause dry mouth. The lack of saliva aids in the buildup of plaque.
Fluctuating hormones. When the body changes, as it does in puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, hormone levels can change, and that can temporarily increase the risk of gum disease.
Illness. Illnesses like leukemia, HIV, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes make you more susceptible to gum disease.
No matter why you have it, you should be aware that this form of compromised oral health has been linked to these overall health issues.
Dental Health, Gum Disease and Overall Health Problems
Stroke. Specifically, there’s a link between periodontal disease and the kind of stroke that results from blocked arteries.
Heart disease and atheroschlerosis.In addition to promoting clogged arteries, gum disease can worsen existing heart disease.
Respiratory disease.Once the harmful bacteria from the mouth reach the lungs, they can produce lung infections and make existing lung conditions more severe.
Diabetes. Diabetics with unhealthy gums have more trouble controlling their blood sugar than diabetics whose gums are health.
Thus you can see that the consequences of untreated gum disease can be serious indeed. If you live in the Chicago area and need help with this problem or with any dental health issue, we invite you to contract Loop Perio for a consultation.