Certain oral health problems, such as gum disease, can negatively affect the rest of your body. Other overall health conditions, such as diabetes, can actually cause you to be more susceptible to oral health problems. The link between oral health and overall health suggests we shouldn’t ignore either if we want to stay healthy all-around.
Can Dental Problems Cause Health Issues?
In short, yes. Dental problems can cause health issues both minor and extreme. Your mouth is home to more than 500 bacterial species that can cause inflammatory problems.
If you develop one disease, for example, periodontal disease, it can feed off of another disease or cause the start of another disease. In this case, periodontal disease and diabetes feed off of one another. If one or both is poorly controlled then the other will be exacerbated.
Can Oral Health Affect Weight?
The relationship between unhealthy teeth and weight gain can be subtle and complex, but if you’re struggling with your weight it’s worth considering.
When you are struggling with poor oral health your body is releasing more inflammatory compounds, typically once you’ve developed gum disease or another chronic infection. These inflammatory proteins then mess with leptin which is what helps your body regulate weight loss and energy use. This turns into a vicious cycle as fat cells will then also release inflammatory proteins.
What Health Conditions Are Linked to Poor Oral Health?
The link between oral and overall health is often associated with the shared common risk factors of both. These risk factors include:
- Injuries and trauma
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Socio-economic status
For example, a poor diet is not only a risk factor for dental cavities, but it’s also a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Four major overall health problems that can be linked to poor oral health either through shared risk factors or as a cause for poor health include cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, endocarditis, and pregnancy complications.
Gum disease introduces a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. This is because poor oral hygiene increases the likelihood of bacterial infection developing in the bloodstream which can then affect the heart valves.
To avoid developing cardiovascular disease due to gum disease you should brush your teeth twice daily, floss once daily, and see your dentist for regular cleanings. While this doesn’t guarantee you won’t develop cardiovascular disease, it is a preventative measure we should all be taking.
Aspiration pneumonia has been linked in studies to dental decay, gum disease, and poor dental hygiene. This series of studies found patients will pneumonia reduced the rate of pneumonia by 19% when aggressive oral care was provided compared to the 11% reduction rate in those who had no additional oral care given.
It’s been found that poor oral hygiene is a pneumonia risk factor in older adults.
It is possible for bacteria in the mouth to cause endocarditis, especially those who are already in a higher-risk group. A study has found the best way to prevent endocarditis from developing due to oral bacteria is by:
- Practicing proper oral hygiene
- Treating gingivitis
Due to limited studies claims about endocarditis and oral health cannot be substantiated. However, it is suggested the correlation between endocarditis and oral health can best be addressed by practicing oral hygiene.
Pregnancy can cause gum disease and tooth decay. It’s also been found that 60 to 70% of pregnant women have gingivitis, which if left untreated can cause long-term problems for the woman’s oral hygiene. It can also be associated with preterm birth and low birth weights.
It is important that you tell your dentist if you are pregnant and speak with both your dentist and a medical doctor about any changes that should be made to protect your teeth.
Poor oral health doesn’t necessarily cause diabetes, rather a diabetes can exacerbate symptoms of poor oral health. Diabetes can increase your risk factor for developing periodontal disease. Because diabetes can slow down healing processes, it can also make the treatment of periodontal disease more difficult.
Uncontrolled diabetes is especially harmful to oral health. It can weaken your white blood cells which then will be unable to properly fight off bacterial infections developing within the mouth. Other oral health concerns for those with diabetes include:
- Dry mouth
- Burning mouth
Osteoporosis causes bones to lose density. This can endanger jawbones which provide support to the teeth. Osteoporosis can result in tooth loss and fractured teeth because of the weakened bones. It is important to note that women who have osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those without osteoporosis.
Talk to your dentist if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis as this can cause your dentures to become ill-fitting and can make other oral health procedures more difficult.
A bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is normally associated with gum disease has been found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It is suspected this bacteria, found in cavities, is entering the bloodstream during normal daily activities such as teeth brushing. Over time this can cause symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease such as confusion or memory loss.
At this time the relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease is still being studied.
Those with HIV/AIDS will most commonly struggle with gingivitis, periodontitis, canker sores, dry mouth, thrush, and hairy leukoplakia, among other conditions. HIV attacks your immune system and weakens it. This is the cause of so many oral health problems.
It is important to pay close attention to your oral health if you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS because you are more likely to develop infections related to your lowered immune system.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Oral Health?
Regular teeth cleanings and visits to your dentist, as well as normal day-to-day oral health maintenance, can help you to protect your oral health.
And remember, while a cavity or gum disease may seem like an isolated problem, left unchecked it can cause other problems throughout your body. Contact your dentist to get your oral health under control.