Your oral hygiene says a lot of about your overall well-being. The mouth is a microcosm of the body as a whole. Oral health issues have been linked to many other more serious medical conditions, making it imperative to be proactive with your preventative oral health routine. Unchecked bacteria in the cause gum disease, and the rampant bacteria, inflammation, and possible infections that go along with it affect the rest of the body in a number of different ways.
Heart problems. Harmful bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream through inflamed, diseased gums. Once these bacteria are circulating, it can cause the hardening of blood vessels through the buildup of plaque. This is called atherosclerosis, and it increases the likelihood of heart attack and stroke. If the bacteria from the mouth finds its way to the inner linings of the heart and its valves, then it can create growth pockets of bacteria. These pockets can cause infection of the inner linings of the heart, called endocarditis, which is often fatal.
Chronic Fatigue. There are links between chronic fatigue and gum disease as well. When harmful bacteria from the mouth gets into the blood vessels, it puts the immune system on high-alert, wearing it down over time. Having to constantly fight off potential infection raises the white blood cell count and lowers the red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body, and a decrease in oxygen throughout the body can lead to fatigue. Also, bacteria in blood makes it thicker, so the heart has to work harder to pump it throughout the body.
Worsening of Other Health Issues. Gingivitis and periodontal disease can also cause pre-existing conditions to worsen. For those suffering from the autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis, gum disease will increase the severity of the already painful condition. For those with diabetes, gum disease can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels, making it harder to keep the condition under control. Bacteria in the mouth can also make its way to the lungs and worsen conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.
Infections in the Lungs. Not only can the bacteria worsen existing lung problems, but it can also cause them. When there’s a large amount of bacteria in the lungs, it increases the chances of developing a bacterial lung infection.
Memory Loss. There is a correlation between inflamed and infected gums and memory loss. Secretions from diseased gums can lead to loss of brain cells, dementia, and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.
Prenatal Complications. Due to changes in hormone levels, women have a higher risk of developing oral infections while pregnant. Anything that affects an expectant mother can also affect their growing child, so diligent dental care is very important for pregnant women. Periodontitis and gingivitis have also been shown to lead to low birth weight or even premature birth.
The good news is both gingivitis and periodontal disease are treatable and highly preventable. A preventative oral health routine includes brushing for two minutes twice a day, flossing thoroughly once or twice a day, and visiting your dentist every six months. Staying consistent in caring for your teeth helps the rest of your body stay healthy, too!