There are plenty of reasons to take good care of your teeth and gums, but did you know that your oral health significantly impacts your overall health? Numerous studies have linked oral health to systemic diseases, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
We’ll provide an overview of some of the most common oral-systemic connections, and how to prevent health problems with proper dental care.
The Perils of Gum Disease
Your gums are tasked with protecting your teeth and the underlying roots and bones. Gum disease occurs when bacteria creates a buildup of plaque and tartar between your gums and your teeth, causing inflammation and infection. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the thorough treatment of periodontal disease has been shown to manage chronic inflammatory conditions throughout the body, including:
- Diabetes - While periodontal disease does not contribute to or cause diabetes, research suggests that gum disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Diabetics are also more likely to develop gum disease and find it harder to treat.
- Heart Disease - Periodontal disease is linked to heart problems, including stroke and heart disease. In one study, individuals diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to have an oral infection than those in a control group.
- Respiratory Diseases - Bacteria present in the oral cavities has been shown to aspirate into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.
What Your Mouth Can Reveal about Your Health
Your mouth can be a window into your overall health, and can often reveal signs of systemic diseases. Mouth lesions are often one of the first symptoms of both HIV/AIDS and diabetes. In fact, many of the most common systemic diseases produce oral symptoms.
If you are wondering about the health state of your oral-systemic link, ask your doctor to test your saliva. This can reveal signs of environmental toxins, as well as bacteria that can cause illness and diseases. In the future, doctors predict that saliva testing may replace blood tests to diagnose many infectious diseases.
How to Protect Yourself from Oral Inflammation
Because the inflammation that is associated with gum disease and tooth decay is so thoroughly connected to your overall health, it is important to take steps to preserve good oral health.
The first step is proper oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss every day. Avoid sugary foods and drinks if possible, and visit your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.
If you experience pain or swelling in your gums or teeth, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Prevention and early detection are your best defense against gum disease.