Healthy Smile, Happy Health
There is an old saying that states your eyes are the window to your soul. Well, what if your teeth were a window to your overall health? The state of your dental health has many consequences. While few people probably take great pleasure in performing the ritual of daily flossing, mouth wash, and multiple brushings, research has shown that there are huge, lifelong benefits to being diligent when it comes to your oral hygiene.
Let’s talk a bit about oral health first. If you’ve ever suffered from tooth loss or gum disease, you know how it can affect your life. The simple act of eating, which most people do without a second thought, can become difficult and painful. Beyond that, your confidence can take a hit. Tooth decay and advancing gum disease can cause long lasting bad breath that may make you self-conscious. Eventually you may have to experience the replacement of your teeth with implants or dentures.
Research shows, however, that there is much more to the story. Poor oral hygiene today can be an indicator of more serious health issues down the road. Many different kinds of health issues can originate in the mouth. The flip side of that is health issues can be stopped there as well. Did you know your saliva is actually one of the front lines of defense against viruses and bacteria? Unfortunately, saliva doesn’t stop everything. Hundreds of different types of bacteria can thrive in your mouth without proper oral care.
While the following may cause a twinge of hypochondria, the good news is that taking care of your teeth doesn’t have to be a chore. By sticking to a daily routine and scheduling regular visits with a dentist, you can help reduce the risk of underlying health issues that have been linked to poor oral hygiene. It’s never too late to start taking better care of your teeth. Let’s explore some of the health issues that have been linked to oral hygiene.
Cardiovascular disease is the big risk factor when it comes to dental health. While there are many other risk factors for heart disease that you’re probably familiar with, research shows there are cardiovascular diseases that can originate in the mouth. For example, the presence of Streptococcus mutans, which is a bacterial cause of tooth decay, has been linked to instances of acute stroke. The theory is these bacteria can bind with blood vessels with time, which eventually leads to hemorrhaging in the brain. Links between gum disease and heart attacks haven’t been solidified, but there is a belief that there is a relationship. Researchers think that bacteria in the mouth can make its way through the body increasing inflammation, which can contribute to atherosclerosis. While the exact mechanism has not been identified, researchers are confident that gum health and heart conditions share commonalities.
Much like with cardiac arrest, the link between gum disease and type 2 diabetes is a “chicken and egg” situation. The research hasn’t made a definitive conclusion in which direction the correlation goes. Diabetes leaves a person prone to more infections, which could be what moves periodontitis along. However, there have been studies showing people with periodontal disease to have double the chance of developing diabetes while combatting the infection. Like with heart disease, the belief is that gum disease is allowing bacteria to spread into the body and increase overall inflammation. This inflammation can damage our ability to process sugars, which eventually leads to diabetes. Anyway you cut it, there is a connection between the two connections. If you are at risk of diabetes, it would be wise to make sure you’re practicing good oral hygiene.
Recent studies show that there is a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Specifically, researchers have found the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of patients with dementia. The theory is that if the brain gets routinely exposed to these bacteria over time because of lack of care, it can lead to the progression of cognitive decline. Certain nerves can become damaged which eventually leads to memory loss. Further tests are needed to determine whether or not this bacterium is a cause of dementia or if it exacerbates an existing cognitive impairment. Either way, regular dental checkups are advised in order to keep gum disease under control.
When was the last time you made a dentist appointment? Keeping an eye on your dental health is just important as getting a physical. Catching gum disease early is as critical as monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure. You may see that your dentist’s findings can lead you to understanding more about your overall health. Make your appointment today.