How Can Poor Oral Health Affect the Rest of the Body?

Oral health is more important than most people usually realize. The way you care for your teeth and gums not only affects the health of your mouth, but it can also affect your general health.

In fact, dentists often say that the mouth is like a window into the body because a person’s oral health actually has a pretty major impact on the overall health of the body. If a person has poor oral hygiene, then there is a good chance they might also have a few health problems occurring elsewhere, too.

How Oral Health and General Health Are Intertwined

The mouth is one of the primary entry points into the body. It’s also a breeding ground for bacteria. Although some of these bacteria are healthy, several can be harmful and put our health in danger. From the mouth, harmful bacteria can access the rest of the body by either being inhaled (leading to respiratory infections) or by entering the bloodstream (leading to systemic disease) as a result of severe periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease and Systemic Health Problems

Periodontal disease (also called gum disease) is a bacterial infection of the gums that occurs when plaque and tartar buildup along the gum line, creating pockets where bacteria thrive. Left unaddressed, periodontal disease can cause local problems like painful teeth sensitivity, receding gums, bleeding gums, swollen gums, tooth decay, tooth loss, and bone deterioration.

Bacteria from periodontal disease can also enter the bloodstream through the infected gums causing systemic health problems, organ damage, bacterial infections in other places, and generalized inflammation throughout the body. While the exact connection is not entirely understood, the inflammation caused by periodontal disease has a definite correlation with several general health problems.

Health Problems That Can Be Connected to Oral Health

Cardiovascular Disease

The exact connection is not quite understood but patients with periodontal disease are much more likely to also suffer from cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, heart attack, and stroke. Additionally, harmful bacteria in the bloodstream can lead to a dangerous infection of the tissues that line the heart.

Dementia

A substance released by infected gums can actually harm the nervous system and cells in the brain. Additionally, an increase in general inflammation caused by poor oral hygiene can increase a patient’s risk of developing dementia and other cognitive health concerns.

Diabetes

Patients with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of developing diabetes and vice versa. Additionally, individuals with periodontal disease tend to have a more difficult time managing blood sugar levels, putting them at an increased risk of suffering from further health complications related to diabetes.

Kidney Disease

Periodontal disease and poor oral health generally have a weakened immune system. This puts patients at an increased risk of developing kidney disease which can lead to kidney failure if left unaddressed.

Infertility

Periodontal disease has been associated with female infertility. Women with periodontal disease tend to have a more difficult time conceiving. Additionally, periodontal disease can cause further problems with pregnancy including a compounded risk of developing gestational diabetes, premature births, and low birth weights in infants.

Prostate Problems

Men who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease are at an elevated risk of developing prostatitis and suffering related pain and discomfort.

Cancer

Increased levels of inflammation have been associated with a higher risk of a variety of types of cancer. The generalized inflammation caused by poor oral health is specifically associated with an increased risk of developing cancer of the pancreas, kidneys, and blood.

Additionally, poor oral health due to tobacco or alcohol use (even the alcohol in mouthwash) can also increase a person’s risk of developing oral cancers of the mouth and throat.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The generally increased inflammation caused by periodontal disease also puts individuals at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis which is caused by inflammation throughout the body.

Preventing Health Problems With Dental Care

Establish good dental care habits to prevent general health problems from arising as a result of poor oral hygiene. We recommend that patients brush and floss their teeth at least twice a day and visit the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and dental exam.

If you have already been diagnosed with periodontal disease, our dentists will talk with you about the treatment options that can help you restore your oral health and avoid suffering from more serious health problems. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, more frequent professional cleanings might be necessary, in addition to more extensive treatments such as root planing and scaling.

At Goochland Dentistry, we strive to continuously emphasize the importance of preventative dental care not only to increase the health and longevity of a patient’s teeth and gums but also to safeguard each patient’s overall wellness. To learn more about preventative dental care and how it can help you achieve optimal health, we invite you to schedule a dental exam at Goochland Dentistry today.

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