In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about how the health of your mouth may be closely connected to the health of the rest of your body. In some instances, the lack of oral health care may lead to various poor health conditions. In others, poor health conditions may cause more problems with your teeth and gums.
While it’s true that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to draw a definitive connection, it is certainly one more really good reason to focus on good dental hygiene.
How Can Your Gums and Teeth Affect Your Body?
At any given time, there are over 500 species of bacteria living in your mouth. This is all fine and normal, but they do work diligently to build up plaque along your teeth and gum line. If you don’t keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine, it can lead to gingivitis and periodontitis.
Bacteria and infections in your mouth usually can’t enter your bloodstream. At least, that’s what a lot of old research has always assumed. Now, though, it looks like there are some ways that these bacteria can find ways into your blood, where they can go on to cause severe problems in other parts of your body.
For example, if you have gum disease, even a routine brushing can create a potential entry place for bacteria. Also, if your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, it can create an imbalance in your mouth, which leads to excessive bacterial buildup.
Normally, a healthy immune system can kill off these bacteria if they get into the rest of your body, but if your system has been weakened for any reason, it is possible that problems could start to build up.
What Conditions May be Related to Poor Oral Health?
So far, a lot of research is starting to show that people who have poor oral health can have significant health problems. One study even suggested that people with gum disease were up to 40% more likely to have a chronic condition on top of it.
Currently, the research suggests that gum disease and other problems in the mouth can potentially contribute to:
- Cardiovascular disease – This is likely the condition you’ve heard about the most, because there is a lot of research looking into the infections that may be caused by oral bacteria and lead to heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke.
- Endocarditis – This is an infection that occurs in the inner lining of the heart. The suspected condition may be caused by oral bacteria getting into the blood and then attaching to damaged areas of the heart where the inflammation can cause problems.
- Diabetes – An inflammation that starts in the mouth may weaken the body’s ability to control its blood sugar levels. At the same time, diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infections, which puts the gums at higher risk for gum disease.
- Premature birth – Some research has connected periodontitis to premature births and lower birth rates. It is believed that infections and inflammations in general may impact the development of a fetus. In fact, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, up to 18% of preterm, low-birth-weight babies born in the United States each year can be attributed to oral infections.
Looking at the Big Picture
Taking care of your teeth so you can keep your teeth the rest of your life is a pretty good reason to maintain strict dental hygiene routines. However, as the research continues to pile up, it’s become clearer that good oral health just might impact your overall health, too. Be sure you focus highly on your daily routine and get regular checkups to make sure a small dental problem doesn’t become a serious health risk.