The mouth-body connection: how your oral health affects your overall well-being

March 1, 2011

When you have an infection, it impacts your entire body. If you have periodontal disease (gum infection), it can wreak havoc on your overall health, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or health issues. In fact, there’s a strong link between periodontal disease and other chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s. So when your dentist treats an oral infection, he or she is also protecting your body from a wide range of health problems.

Heart disease: When mouth bacteria enter the blood stream, they attach to the fatty plaques in blood vessels, thickening the vessel walls, restricting flow – and reducing oxygen and nutrients to the heart. The result? When your heart doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, you can have a heart attack.

Stroke: If blood pressure increases due to build-up, and fatty particles get dislodged and block a blood vessel, a stroke can occur.

Diabetes complications: Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar and make diabetes more difficult to manage. People who have diabetes are more susceptible to infection, particularly periodontal disease, which affects their teeth and jaw.

Respiratory disease: When you inhale bacteria from your mouth into your lungs, it can cause a bacterial respiratory infection. An infection is difficult enough to deal with when you are otherwise healthy; if you have existing lung conditions like asthma, pneumonia and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), however, it can make them worse.

Osteoporosis: People who have osteoporosis can suffer bone loss in the jaw. Advanced gum disease is also a factor in bone loss, exacerbating the problem and causing significantly more damage.

Pregnancy problems: Periodontal disease puts pregnant woman at risk of premature or low-weight babies. Researchers believe that it triggers increase levels of biological fluids than induce labour. If you are pregnant or are planning to have a baby in the near future, getting your health – both oral and otherwise – stable is vital to the baby’s health and your own well-being. (See our earlier blog post about dentistry and pregnancy for more details.)

Memory loss: According to a recent article in Medical News Today, research has shown that there is a link between memory loss (such as that experienced by people suffering from dementia and Alzheimers) and poor oral health. So as it turns out, brushing your teeth isn’t just good for your mouth – it’s good for your brain, too.

So how do you avoid gum disease? Brush and floss diligently, and visit your dentist on a regular basis. Should your dentist find that you have gum disease (or are at risk for developing it), he or she will recommend a periodontal plan and therapy that can include scaling and polishing, systemic antibiotics, oral irrigation, subgingival, fixed antibiotics, enzyme therapy, and/or pesodontal surgery.

But by taking proper care of your teeth and gums, you can avoid health issues associated with poor oral health. When your mouth is healthy, your whole body benefits!

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