Wellness Tips | 07 August, 2023

Six Ways Your Dental Health Can Affect the Health of Your Body

Brushing your teeth, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly are not just important for your smile or your ability to enjoy delicious meals. Your dental health and mouth is also an intricate part of your overall health.

A growing body of research has revealed there is an intimate connection between your oral health and at least six crucial health conditions: Heart Disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes, Lung Conditions, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Understanding the dental health connections with the rest of your body can empower you to take better care of your oral health, leading to a healthier, happier life, so let's take a closer look at the six main ways your dental health can be impacting the health of the rest of your body.

How is poor dental health related to heart disease?

Your heart and mouth may seem unrelated, but research increasingly suggests that poor oral health can impact cardiovascular health.

Gum disease, or periodontitis, causes chronic inflammation, allowing harmful bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Once they get into your bloodstream, these bacteria can travel throughout your body and trigger inflammation in your heart's vessels and infection in your heart valves.
They can also contribute to the formation of arterial plaques, increasing your risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

How is poor dental health related to diabetes?

Diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease (periodontitis) because it is harder for their bodies to control their blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can weaken the body's ability to fight infections, including those in the gums.

As a result, diabetics may experience more severe and frequent gum infections, which, if left untreated, can lead to inflammation, bleeding gums, and even tooth loss. Infections in the mouth can also spread to other parts of the body, worsening overall health and potentially leading to more severe diabetes-related complications.

Gum disease can also increase blood sugar levels, making it more challenging for diabetics to control their blood glucose.

A decrease in saliva production is a common complication of diabetes and it also increases the risk of developing dental decay.

Even if you don’t already have diabetes, studies now suggest a link between poor oral health and increased insulin resistance, a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Because the risk of developing severe gum disease is greater in people with diabetes, particularly when blood sugar levels are not controlled, it’s important to also limit sugary snacks and beverages that can promote tooth decay and affect blood sugar levels. It is also recommended that diabetics have more frequent dental check-ups and cleanings.

How is poor dental health related to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline?

Periodontitis is caused by bacteria that leads to inflammation of the gums. Once this bacteria enters the bloodstream through your infected gums, it can lead to systemic inflammation, travelling from the mouth to your brain.

This overall increase in inflammation can have detrimental effects on the brain and has been linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, with bacteria involved in gum disease found travelling to sites of the brain responsible for memory.

Unfortunately, the memory loss and gradual impairment of functioning caused by Alzheimer's can also lead to a decline in oral hygiene, further worsening gum disease and inflammation.

Dentists can help find methods to make oral hygiene easier and manage inflammation in the gums for people who already have Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive conditions.

How is poor dental health related to adverse pregnancy outcomes?

Many conditions of pregnancy can increase your risk of developing tooth decay, including reflux or vomiting and the increased teeth brushing associated with these conditions. Dietary changes including frequent snacking to prevent morning sickness or eating products with added sugar due to food cravings can also cause cavities to develop.

With pregnancy hormones also making gums more susceptible to inflammation, swelling and gingivitis, bacteria can enter your bloodstream through your infected gums, travelling from the mouth to your placenta.

Dental treatment is still safe to receive during pregnancy, however, if possible, try to have a dental check-up prior to falling pregnant to ensure any necessary dental treatments are performed prior to falling pregnant. If you develop gum disease during pregnancy, it is safe to receive treatment.

Brush your teeth and your tongue twice a day with a soft, small-headed toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and try using a fluoride mouthwash if you’re gagging when brushing your back teeth.

How is poor dental health related to lung conditions?

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when bacteria in your mouth and throat are inhaled into the lungs, leading to infection and inflammation. This can happen when your immune system is compromised or when you have difficulty swallowing or coughing effectively to clear your airways.

Oral disease also contributes to lung conditions. When your mouth is full of bacteria and these bacteria travel to your lungs either through the bloodstream or via aspiration, they increase the risk of respiratory infections, causing infections like pneumonia.

Untreated tooth decay and dental abscesses can create pockets of infection in the mouth. Bacteria from these infections can spread to the lungs, especially if the person aspirates, leading to pneumonia.

If you have poor dental health you may also have difficulty swallowing, which can lead to an increased risk of aspirating food or liquids into the lungs, which can cause aspiration pneumonia.

Poor dental health can also exacerbate existing conditions. If you suffer from conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma you may be more susceptible to respiratory infections if your oral health is not adequately maintained.

How is poor dental health related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Because Periodontitis is a severe inflammatory disease affecting the gums, these two conditions appear to be linked due to their common involvement of inflammation, and some studies have even shown the presence of mouth bacteria in the gut.

Migration of bacteria from the mouth to the gut can trigger the body's defence system to react to these oral bacteria, resulting in the formation of abscesses and other reactions within the gut that might not have otherwise occurred.

If you suffer from both severe gum disease and IBD, this combination elevates overall body inflammation and could potentially worsen the progression of both diseases.

To floss your teeth correctly, follow these simple steps:

?? Dispense about 30-40 cm of dental floss.
?? Hold a short amount of floss between both hands and gently insert it between your teeth.
?? Curve the floss around each tooth in a "C" shape.
?? Move the floss in a back-and-forth and up-and-down motion
?? Be careful not to apply too much pressure and use a new, clean section of floss for each tooth.

Having regular dental check-ups will allow your dentist to monitor or stabilise any diseases in your mouth, preventing harmful bacteria from entering your bloodstream and spreading to other organs in your body.

And if you are already suffering from conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, lung conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease your dentist can also help you manage symptoms of these diseases, such as mouth ulcers, common for IBS sufferers and gum swelling, common in pregnancy.

Ready to Improve Your Dental Health and Overall Health?

As we become mindful and learn more of the invisible link between our mouths and our bodies, making oral health an essential component of our holistic healthcare approach becomes even more important.

Remember, a healthy mouth leads to a healthier you! So, embrace the power of a radiant smile and take charge of your oral health for a happier, healthier future.

If you’d like to find out ways to better manage your dental health, book an appointment today with your local Maven dentist.


Heart disease

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Alzheimer's disease

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Lung disease

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