Can oralhealth affect general health
How poor dental health can put your entire body at risk
Most of us are aware that poor dental health can lead to cavities, bleeding gums, toothache, etc, but how many of us are aware that oral health can have a significant impact on our general health? Your mouth is the window to your body and not maintaining good oral hygiene can put you at risk of developing some more serious medical conditions than a simple toothache, yellow teeth or bad breath.
Bacteria from your oral cavity can enter the bloodstream and may cause infection as well as inflammation in other parts of your body. Here are some common but serious conditions that may be caused if you don’t take good care of your pearlies.
Diabetes patients are more likely to develop gum disease than people without diabetes. Gum disease is considered the sixth complication of diabetes. Emerging research has also indicated that gum disease and diabetes have a two-way relationship. Presence of gum disease can make it more difficult for diabetes patients to control their blood sugar level.
Recent studies indicate that people with poor oral health are more susceptible to developing cardiovascular diseases. According to a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal ‘Circulation’, gum disease may increase the risk of a heart attack by nearly 50 percent. A theory is that bacteria from the oral cavity may lodge itself inside the blood vessel leading to plaque build-up and ultimately lead to fatal blockages.
A stroke occurs as a result of interruption of blood flow in a vessel supplying blood to the brain. When an interruption occurs due to a blood clot, it is called an ischemic stroke. Research has found that poor dental health is associated with an increased risk of stroke. Recent studies have also reported that people with gum disease are more prone to ischemic strokes and the risk increases with an increase in gum infection.
Studies have shown that pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to deliver preterm or have low birth weight babies and develop gestational diabetes than pregnant women who have good oral health. Babies who are born preterm have higher chances of developing complications including a higher risk of infant death.
There is a well-documented evidence linking pneumonia to bad oral health. Dental bacteria from bad teeth can be inhaled into the lungs or can travel through the bloodstream causing pneumonia or even bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In a recent study, bacteria which cause gum disease were found in brain samples of people with dementia. It is believed that substances released by the body during the immune response to bacteria can cause nerve cell death in the brain and lead to memory loss.
Poor oral health has not only been associated with oral cancers but also is a risk factor in various other cancers including liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer. In a recent study at Queens University in Belfast researchers found that poor oral health is associated with a 75% increase in risk for liver cancer.
Steps to maintain good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using fluoridated toothpaste.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or when the bristles are frayed.
- Floss daily. Flossing helps get rid of the food/debris in between the teeth.
- Use a mouthwash to reduce the bacterial count in your mouth.
- Drink more water.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit food with added sugars. Add foods to your diet which promote cleansing or remineralization of teeth.
- Visit your dentist every 6 months to evaluate your oral health.
- Avoid smoking and use of tobacco products.
- Visit your dentist before planning for pregnancy.
Dr. Paresh Lotlekar is a leading dental practitioner specialising in Periodontology & Oral implantology and the founder of STUDIO32 (studio32india.com), a chain of super speciality dental clinics in Goa.