Did you know the health of your mouth directly impacts the health of the rest of your body, including the brain and heart. Unhealthy gums can affect your overall health in many ways. Below are some ways poor oral health can negatively impact overall health and things you can do to keep your teeth and mouth healthy to avoid additional health complications.
Your mouth is full of bacteria. If your teeth and gums are infected, you may be inhaling harmful bacteria This can lead to lung infections, COPD, acute bronchitis, and even pneumonia.
Bacteria from infected gums can enter your bloodstream and travel to coronary arteries. This leads to potentially fatal complications including blood flow problems, heart blockages and an increased risk of having a heart attack. Damage on arteries can also lead to hypertension and increase risk of strokes.
Other cardiovascular complications impacted by poor oral health can include:
- Atherosclerosis: the buildup of cholesterol plaque in the walls of arteries causing obstruction of blood flow
- Endocarditis: infection of the heart's inner lining, usually involving the heart valves
Hormone changes can cause a pregnant woman to develop infection much more easily, which can lead to the risk of pregnancy complications. Periodontitis and gingivitis have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight for the infant. Gum disease puts both mother and baby at risk for serious health complications.
More than 29 million Americans have diabetes. It is estimated that about 8.1 million of those with diabetes do not know they have it. Gum disease, or periodontitis, can make diabetes difficult to control. Symptoms can worsen because gum disease can lead to higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. It is also important to note, a person with gum disease is at a greater risk for developing diabetes.
Bacteria released from infectious gums can kill brain cells and lead to memory loss. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can result from gingivitis when bacteria spreads to the blood stream or nerve channels.
Practicing Good Hygiene is Important to Protecting Your Overall Health
Good dental habits can have a positive effect on your overall health and wellness. Below are a few steps you can take to protect your dental and general health.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year for an examination/dental cleaning
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss between all teeth once a day
- Use an antimicrobial mouthwash between meals
- Have a healthy diet and consume foods high in fiber, calcium and vitamins
- Chew xylitol/sugar-free gum between meals
Let your dentist know about:
- Changes to your recent health history, such as illnesses or chronic conditions
- The medications you are currently taking (prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs)
- Your tobacco use-consult with your dentist concerning options for quitting
- If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, changing hormones during pregnancy can lead to some types of dental problems
Your entire body is interconnected. Each part of your body can affect other parts and systems. Healthy dental habits will improve your oral health, overall health, confidence and quality of life.
Oral health may be our specialty, but full-body health from heart to mind is our focus.