How Dental Health Impacts Your Overall Health
Maintaining a bright smile and healthy gums boosts your self-confidence and help prevent oral health issues, such as cavities and gingivitis, that require aggravating dental work. But did you know that the health of your teeth and gums is closely linked to your overall health?
When you think about it, this link makes sense, as your mouth serves as an entryway to the rest of your body, with a direct path to the digestive and respiratory systems and an indirect path into the circulatory system. Whatever happens in your mouth can transcend into the rest of the body and vice versa. This means that not only can your dental health impact your overall health, but issues affecting other systems in your body may impact your oral health.
Marco Island dentist Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke closely tracks research into these links to help his southwest Florida patients maintain the best oral and overall health. Our office asks patients about specific health issues they may be experiencing to determine whether oral health may play a role or whether oral health remedies may help. During examinations, Dr. Van Dyke checks for oral health-related symptoms that various systemic diseases may cause.
Rapid deterioration or change in a patient’s dental health can clearly indicate that something else in the body is amiss. So, always contact your dentist whenever you grow concerned about issues affecting your teeth and/or gums. Let’s take a closer look at how your dental health may impact your overall health and examine how certain diseases and conditions may affect your oral health. As you will see, this represents a two-way street in some cases.
Oral Health Links to Specific Diseases and Conditions
Numerous studies are currently investigating the potential links between oral health and overall systemic health, including:
- Cardiovascular disease—researchers have determined people with periodontal disease have higher rates of heart disease, which suggests a distinct link. Some theories posit that the same bacteria responsible for periodontal disease spreads via the bloodstream into the heart valves, where it causes inflammation and possible endocarditis. The bacteria may also play a role in the hardening of the arteries and plaque buildup characterized by atherosclerosis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis—like cardiovascular disease, those with periodontal disease have higher rates of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Cancer— while there is a limit on research, studies have indicated that poor oral health increases the risk for kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers.
- Dementia— while research is in the early stages, gingivitis-related bacteria may enter the brain via the bloodstream and kill brain cells, which could lead to memory loss over time.
- Respiratory diseases—researchers believe that bacteria caused by gum disease and/or tooth infections could be pulled into the lungs via the airways or bloodstream, where it could cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
- Pregnancy and birth complications— there is a link between periodontal disease and higher rates of premature births and lower birth rates. Researchers say the link goes both ways, with pregnancy-related hormone levels thought to be responsible for swelling and bleeding of the gums.
- Diabetes—periodontal disease is believed to affect blood sugar levels, which can increase the risk of developing diabetes. Its impact on blood sugar levels makes it harder for diabetics to keep their disease in check, making it more difficult to control the infection caused by gum disease.
- Erectile Dysfunction—researchers believe the connection between gum disease and erectile dysfunction is caused by blood vessel inflammation arising from gum disease-related bacteria. Such inflammation could impede the flow of blood needed to achieve an erection.
Conditions Impacting Oral Health
Numerous diseases and conditions have been identified for their potential to impact oral health. Those receiving the most recent attention from researchers include:
- Diabetes—this disease inhibits the body’s ability to resist infection, increasing the risk of gum disease.
- HIV/AIDS— causes painful lesions in the mouth and reduces the body’s ability to resist infection, enhancing gum disease likelihood.
- Osteoporosis—because it weakens the bones, it leads to periodontal bone loss and subsequent tooth loosening and loss.
- Alzheimer’s disease—As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, oral health typically deteriorates.
- Cancer—many cancer-fighting drugs impede saliva production, and some types of cancer cause mouth infections.
- Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease—have been linked to the formation of aphthous ulcers, commonly known as canker sores.
- Bulimia and anorexia—eating disorders have been linked to tooth discoloration.
Preserve Your Overall Health with Diligent Dental Care
Now that you’ve got even more reason to maintain that bright smile, practice the best oral health care with these tips:
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months or when bristles start fraying.
- Schedule regular dental cleanings and checkups.
- Contact your dentist if you experience unusual pain, excessive bleeding, or noticeable mouth infection.
- Notify your dentist about any new medical conditions and medications you regularly take.
- Avoid all tobacco products.
- Eat healthy foods.
For Optimal Oral Care in Southwest Florida, Turn to Island Tower Dentistry
We trust that all of our southwest Florida-area patients will take this information to heart by maintaining the best in their oral health. For professional help with your teeth and gums, contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004.