Your oral health and overall health are more connected than you might realize, and many doctors are teaming up with dental health professionals to make sure that you are taking good care of your mouth in order to take good care of your body. Here are some of the ways your oral health and overall health are linked.
Scientists are constantly studying the link between inflammation and diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Gum disease, which causes mild to severe inflammation of gum tissue, can contribute to overall infection levels of the body. Unfortunately chronic inflammation related to gum disease causes often goes unnoticed, and when left unchecked, it can wear down your immune system and prevent other systems of the body from fully functioning and remaining healthy.
Severe gum disease, known as periodontal disease, has been linked to the development of heart disease, and studies have proven that gum disease is a risk factor for stroke as well. Those with periodontitis are almost twice as likely to have heart disease, and while the exact way that inflammation of the gums contributes to heart disease is still being debated, they are definitely connected. One theory states that the chemicals your body releases to fight the inflammation of the gums can contribute to plaque build-up in the arteries.
Unfortunately for those with diabetes, gum disease can exacerbate the condition. Researchers agree that having diabetes increases your body’s susceptibility to all infections, including gum disease; at the same time, having gum disease increases the level of inflammation your body is dealing with, and this worsens diabetes and makes blood-sugar levels more difficult to manage. Luckily, though, the inverse is also true. For those with both diabetes and gum disease, treating one will improve the condition of the other. Once the inflammation of gum disease is under control, diabetes becomes more manageable, and keeping blood-sugar levels carefully controlled will lessen your chances for gum disease.
Gum disease has been shown to increase a pregnant woman’s risk of going into pre-term labor and of delivering a baby with low birth weight. Gum disease has also been linked with recurrence of pneumonia and lung disease. Some believe having gum disease can also contribute to osteoporosis and arthritis.
You can best prevent gum disease by brushing and flossing regularly, having a dental check-up twice a year, and avoiding smoking. Also consider discussing other health concerns with your dentist, especially if you have symptoms of gum disease.