If your teeth are not in the best condition then you may think that the problem is localised to just your mouth, however this assumption is actually incorrect. As with health issues in the rest of your body, your oral health can also affect your overall health. Recent surveys have shown that there are strong links between a number of serious medical conditions and poor oral health.
Oral health and diet
The state of your teeth is often indicative of poor health in the rest of your body. Most people who are displaying serious oral problems which are caused by tooth decay are also likely to display other health issues. Many of the foods which are bad for the teeth and gums are also bad for other organs. For example, smoking can cause dental hygiene issues by speeding up the progression of gum disease, but it also causes problems for the lungs. The bleeding gums that are associated with gum disease may be the first thing that you notice to suggest that your diet and your lifestyle may have started to affect any part of your body, but you should be aware that these issues may be affecting more than just your teeth.
Oral health and diabetes
There is a very strong link between diabetes and serious gum disease. Doctors have discovered that your body’s ability to control levels of blood sugar are actually reduced in people who have inflamed gums. The body struggles to utilise insulin properly, and blood sugar levels are likely to increase.
To make matters worse, the relationship between poor oral health and gum disease is a cyclical one. Having higher blood sugar levels helps to “feed” infection, making it much easier for the infection to spread and grow. This means that it becomes much harder to control the gum disease. Conversely, this means that controlling one condition can actually make it easier to control the other.
Talking to your doctor and dentist can help you to come up with the best strategy for fighting both of these complaints at once.
Oral health and heart disease
Although the reasons for the connection are not immediately clear, scientists have noticed a connection between heart disease and gum disease. Patients who have heart disease are far more likely to also have gum disease. It is estimated that around 91% of heart disease sufferers also suffer from gum disease.
It is believed that repeated inflammation of tissue in the mouth which is caused by gum disease can actually cause inflammation of the blood vessels elsewhere in the body. Inflammation of blood vessels restricts the flow of blood around the body, and is particularly concerning when the restriction is closer to the heart. Restrictions to the blood flow also increase blood pressure in the body, which can result in a number of serious medical conditions. People who are suffering in this way are at risk that fatty build-ups in the blood vessels could break down and that the substances could then travel elsewhere in the body, causing more serious blockages.
A blockage in the heart can lead to a heart attack, and a blockage in the brain can cause a stroke. Whilst it has not been proven that gum disease causes (a worsening of) heart disease, there is strong evidence that links the two. Even if gum disease does not actually contribute to heart disease, it is worth being aware that a lot of the factors which cause a worsening of gum disease (such as lifestyle and diet) are actually also leading causes of heart disease as well. Therefore, if you are starting to display symptoms of advanced gum disease, you should also consider that your vascular health may also be at risk.
Gum disease and obesity
Although there is no evidence that gum disease causes obesity in any way, there is a strong link between body fat levels and the progression of gum disease. Studies have shown that gum disease progresses more quickly in patients who have a higher body fat level. This can put your teeth and gums at greater risk. Again, it is worth being aware that there are also strong links between the dietary causes of obesity and foods that are bad for your teeth and gums.