Maintaining good oral health is about much more than having a sparkling, white smile. In fact, your dental health is closely related to your body's overall health. It's long been said that the mouth is the "gateway to the body". With this in mind, it makes sense that harmful bacteria from the mouth can result in some serious health concerns in the body. Let's consider some of the health risks linked to periodontal disease:
Heart Disease: Periodontal disease-- also known as gum disease-- is an infection of the tissues around the teeth. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease; periodontitis is the most advanced stage. What many people aren't aware of, however, is that gum disease is linked to coronary artery disease. It might sound strange that the health of your gums is related to the health of your heart, but research increasingly supports this claim. In fact, people with periodontal disease are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those with healthy gums. While the reason for the link remains unclear, it's likely related to inflammation. Specifically, when harmful bacteria from the mouth enters the bloodstream, it might ultimately play a role in the inflammation of the heart's blood vessels.
Dementia: Research has shown that patients with gum disease have a higher risk of developing dementia later in life. Additionally, it appears that severe gum disease might also be linked to the cognitive functioning of patients in the present. In fact, in one study, patients who suffered from advanced periodontal disease performed worse on memory tests than their counterparts with healthy gums.
Respiratory Concerns: You've likely never considered a relationship between your oral health and your lungs, but research is increasingly showing that the connection is there; specifically, those with gum disease are more likely to suffer from respiratory infections. This includes serious infections like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, which can be debilitating and life threatening.
Diabetes: The link between diabetes and gum disease goes both ways; that is, people with diabetes are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease, and people with periodontal disease are more likely to have diabetes. Gum disease makes it more difficult for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. Additionally, people with diabetes are more prone to infection-- including periodontal disease. Studies have shown that treating gum disease in diabetic patients often improves the symptoms of diabetes.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis characterized by painful joints and inflammation. Like RA, periodontal disease is also characterized by chronic inflammation. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than those without RA.
Premature Birth: While the research is still ongoing, many studies have shown that mothers with gum disease are more likely to deliver their babies prematurely than mothers with healthy teeth and gums. Additionally, mothers who were treated for gum disease during their pregnancies were less likely to deliver before term than mothers who didn't seek treatment.
Now that you know that gum disease is linked to a variety of serious health concerns, how you can ensure that you're maintaining good oral health? Consider the following tips for preventing periodontal disease:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily
- Wear a dental guard if you clench or grind your teeth
- Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and preventative care
- Contact your dentist immediately if you notice symptoms like red, swollen, or bleeding gums
Remember: good oral health goes far beyond dazzling everyone with your pearly whites. It's an important factor in the total health of your body. For more information, please contact Valley Dental Care today.