These days, a dental visit can involve more than just getting your teeth cleaned and having any cavities filled. In the past five to 10 years, physicians have found a possible link between mouth health and overall body health.
When built-up bacteria on the teeth become infected, the immune system attempts to fight it, causing inflammation. Over time, the inflammation eats away at the gums and the bone structure that holds your teeth in place, resulting in severe gum disease called periodontitis. While this inflammation has a profound effect on the gums, it can also cause problems in the rest of the body. Here are some common oral health and body health links:
Inflammation that begins in the mouth can weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar. Due to a lack of insulin, people with diabetes have trouble processing sugar, and high blood sugar provides the ideal environment for infection to grow. By managing one of these issues, you can help to get the other under control.
The majority of patients with heart disease also have perodontitis, possibly because inflammation in the mouth can cause inflammation in the blood vessels. This increases the risk for a heart attack because a smaller amount of blood is able to travel through an inflamed blood vessel, which raises blood pressure. High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease. Inflammation also increases the risk for clot formation in the blood vessels.
Since digestion begins when you open your mouth to swallow a bite of food, any issues that arise here can also affect your digestion system, including causing intestinal failure, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders. These diseases can also lead to sores inside your mouth, and the gum tissue or inner cheeks can become swollen.
And that’s just to name a few. The inflammation caused by gum disease can also aggravate rheumatoid arthritis, worsen lung conditions like pneumonia, and contribute to bone loss associated with osteoporosis. In addition, researchers are looking into the possible role that gum disease has on premature and low birth weight deliveries. It is thought that infection and inflammation can interfere with the development of the fetus in the womb.
Since your mouth can often be a window into what is going on inside the rest of your body, it is important to take care of your teeth. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups. If you keep your mouth healthy, the rest of your body will follow.