The mouth can be the gateway to earlier detection of many medical conditions. It is well documented that a high percentage of health conditions can have oral symptoms, such as swollen or bleeding gums, ulcers, dry mouth, bad breath, metallic taste and various other changes in the oral cavity. It is also been found that gum disease causes inflammation and treating that inflammation may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.

Gum disease is an infection caused by bacteria that is lodged between the teeth and gum. Simply brushing is enough to put some of those bacteria into your blood stream. The bacteria then travel to major organs where they can spur new infections.  Inflammation also plays a role in spreading the effects of bad oral health. Red and swollen gums signal the bodies’ inflammatory response to produce certain chemicals that can spread through the blood stream and create havoc elsewhere in the body. Research is starting to find dental problems are being linked to a growing list of ailments.

Diabetes – Diabetic patients are more likely to develop gum disease because their risk of infection is higher. The gum infection can increase the blood sugar making it harder to control the diabetes. The high blood sugar increases the growth of the bacteria that causes gum disease. This is a hard cycle to break.

Heart disease – The inflammation from the gum disease increases the risk of heart disease by nearly twice. The bacteria associated with the gums can be released into the blood stream putting patients at risk of infective endocarditis into developing an infection. These people  may require antibiotics prior to dental cleanings to help[ prevent this infection.  Clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause

Osteoporosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis – Research suggests Osteoporosis is linked to bone loss and density in the jaw. This causes the teeth to loose support and possible result in loss of teeth. Medications to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis can increase the risk for osteoporosis leading to the same results.

Respiratory Disease – The bacteria that grows the mouth especially in the gum disease can be aspirated and cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

Cancer – Research shows with gum disease your chances for developing cancers increase. Your dentist should screen for oral cancer and other cancers of the head and neck, including skin cancer, cancer of the jawbone and thyroid cancer, during routine checkups.

Preterm Low-Birth weight Babies –  When a woman becomes pregnant, hormonal changes occur, increasing the risk of pregnancy gingivitis. Without proper care this mild inflammation can become more serious and lead to gum disease. Gum disease increases the inflammatory response that can cause premature labor.

Tobacco Use – This is one risk factor that is preventable. Tobacco use causes chronic systemic inflammation because of toxins found in the body and can stimulate platelets to clump together. The body will go into “high gear” to fight this, causing inflammation that can result in various medical conditions. This a list of the effects of tobacco use:

  • Increased risk of mouth pain, cavities and gum recession (which can lead to tooth loss)
  • Reduced ability to fight infection, including in the mouth and gums
  • Slower healing of gum tissue after oral surgery or from injury
  • Increased risk of tooth loss (twice that of non-smokers)
  • Increased risk of needing root canal treatment (twice that of non-smokers)
  • Increased risk of gum disease (50% more cases than non-smokers)
  • Reduced effectiveness of gum disease treatments
  • Children exposed to tobacco smoke may have delays in the formation of their permanent teeth

Medications – In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

Systemic health is closely linked to the state of the oral cavity. Evidence is mounting that the presence of inflammation in the blood may signal an increased risk for various diseases.

 

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene every day. For example:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups.
  • Drink water and avoid soft drinks and sweet drinks.

Also, contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Remember, taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

 

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