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Could the health of your mouth be affecting your general health?

February 10, 2014 by bridgeways

As published in the Totton & Romsey and West Wellow Gazette

Recent findings support something that the dental profession has suspected for a long time – namely that infections in the mouth can cause or worsen problems in other parts of the body. Oral health is integral or intertwined with general health and so should never be considered in isolation as many of the key factors that lead to poor oral health are also risk factors for other diseases. Chronic non communicable diseases and conditions such as heart disease, strokes, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity and oral diseases all share a common set of common risk factors.

Likewise, a range of general health conditions can affect your oral health. For instance, poorly controlled diabetes is a well established risk factor for developing the bone loss associated with periodontal disease.

Conditions that may be caused or made worse by poor dental/oral health include:

How can the health of your mouth affect your heart?

People with gum disease are known to be almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease than those without. Gum disease can result in bleeding gums and then bacteria from the mouth, can easily get into the bloodstream. These bacteria produce proteins which can cause the platelets in the blood to stick together in the blood vessels of the heart, making it more possible for blood clots to form. These in turn, can reduce the flow of blood so that the heart no longer gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly. In worst case scenarios this can lead to angina or even a heart attack.

The Link with Diabetes?

It is now known that poorly controlled diabetes is  a well recognised risk factor for developing gum and periodontal disease and vice versa. People with diabetes are more likely  to have gum disease than those without. This is probably because diabetics are in general, more likely to get infections. People who are unaware that they have diabetes or whose diabetes is not under control are especially at risk. It is estimated that there are in the region of 850,000 people in the UK with undiagnosed diabetes and that 50% of these will have irreversible organ damage by the time they are diagnosed.

If you do have diabetes it is important you see a dentist/hygienist regularly so that any gum disease you have is diagnosed because it can result in an increase in blood sugar levels and its possible complications. Recent research has shown in turn, that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have gum disease and if you are diabetic, you have an increased risk of losing teeth with all the implications that can have on your quality of life.

The Link with Strokes?

Several studies have looked at the connection between gum disease and strokes. They found that people who have had a stroke are more likely to have gum disease than those who have not had one. When the bacteria associated with gum disease get into the bloodstream they produce a protein that can cause inflammation of the blood vessels. This can reduce the flow of blood to this vital organ, cause a blockage and result in having a stroke.

Could Gum Disease Affect An Unborn Baby?

Pregnant women who have gum disease may be over three times more likely to have a premature baby and so has a low birth rate. Apparently there is a 1 in 4 chance that a woman with gum disease will give birth before 35 weeks.

It seems that gum disease raises the level of chemicals that bring on labour and research also suggests that women whose gum disease worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature birth.

How Could Gum Disease Affect the Lungs?

Bacterial chest infections are thought to be caused by breathing in fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs. This may result in problems such as pneumonia or make an existing lung condition worse. People with gum disease have more bacteria in their mouths so have an increased risk of these finding their way into the lungs.

Can Tooth Loss be a Factor in Dementia?

Recent studies found that people with fewer teeth had a higher risk of experiencing memory loss or early stage Alzheimer’s disease. This may be because the gum infections that cause tooth loss may release chemicals that increase chemicals that increase the brain inflammation and death of brain cells that leads to early memory loss.

Dentally, there is also an established link with such neurological conditions and mercury toxicity associated with silver amalgam fillings but that is a whole new topic!

What are the Tell Tale Signs of Gum Disease You Can Look Out For?

Visit your dentist or hygienist if you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, which can include:

Of course, regular visits to the dentist or hygienist can prevent all these problems occurring in the first place – prevention being better than cure! REMEMBER, YOUR MOUTH AND YOUR BODY TALK TO EACH OTHER – SO LOOK AFTER THEM BOTH!

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