Most patients are surprised to learn just how much their oral health affects their physical health and vice versa. For example, bacteria in the mouth could lead to a bout of bacterial bronchitis, or a health condition that causes dry mouth could speed up tooth decay. Let’s look at some surprising ways your oral and overall well-being are connected.
10 Health Conditions Linked to Poor Oral Health
You may be surprised to see some health conditions on this list. It’s important to note that poor oral health is not the only risk factor for any illness, and you should always speak with your health team to get a better picture of your overall well-being and learn more about what you can do to remain healthy.
Statistics show a clear connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. The number one cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. However, how the two conditions are linked is still unclear. Some believe the bacteria is to blame, while others feel it’s the inflammation triggered by the body’s immune system.
When there is excess bacteria in the mouth, you can breathe it into your lungs, where it can grow into an infection. Respiratory infections can become chronic, meaning they last for months or years and worsen over time. However, poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of illnesses like these.
There seems to be a link between poor oral health early in life and developing kidney disease as an adult. While this is still being studied at medical schools and clinics worldwide, what is already evident is that those who already have kidney disease are at a much higher risk of poor oral health. Then, poor oral health could impact their ability to consume nutritious foods, which worsens their kidney function and further worsens their oral health. Because of this vicious cycle, those with kidney disease or at risk of it must keep healthy oral hygiene habits.
Consuming high amounts of sugar and poor oral hygiene habits can lead to cavities and other oral health conditions. Over time, a high sugar diet may contribute to the development of diabetes, which carries risks for other associated health conditions. Like with kidney disease, oral health and diabetes are two-way streets, and one affects the other. Those at risk should protect their oral health because doing so after a diabetes diagnosis will be more complex, and pre-existing oral health concerns may make it harder to manage your diabetes.
A significant and groundbreaking study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease cited gum disease as a possible cause of dementia. Over 6,000 older adults were followed to look for periodontal disease and dementia signs, and a surprising link between the two was found. While more research is needed to determine how strong the link is, it’s safe to say that there is one. It’s also safe to say that it’s never too late to improve your oral health to increase overall wellness.
RA, or rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune disease. Poor oral health won’t likely cause the disease, but it is sure to be impacted by it. RA is a damaging disease that attacks the joints, organs and possibly other areas of the body. Essentially, your immune system turns against itself and, when it does, causes inflammation. This inflammation is likely to affect your oral health by causing inflammation of the gums. That swelling can lead to bacteria buildup and speed up gum disease. Those with RA and other autoimmune disorders should work closely with their dentist to ensure good oral health.
Oral cancer is a genuine concern for many patients, and it could have several causes. Those who drink alcohol, smoke or use other nicotine products are at higher risk of developing oral cancer, but poor oral hygiene and gum disease are other risk factors. Another assumed risk factor is the human papillomavirus, or HPV, typically shared through sexual contact. Poor oral health is also connected to cancers outside of the oral cavity. Several studies have linked the bacteria and viruses commonly associated with poor oral health to carcinogenesis, which is the process that starts forming cancerous cells.
Poor oral hygiene affects fertility in both men and women. In men, oral health directly affects sperm count and mobility, which means how many sperm are present and how well they can travel. Studies have shown that, on average, it takes women two months longer to conceive when they have poor oral health and are actively trying to become pregnant. However, statistics show that women of color are more likely to be impacted by the delay.
Pregnant women with poor oral health face several risks. Pregnancies that are already considered high-risk should be monitored closely for premature delivery, high blood pressure or glucose levels and pregnancy tumors. However, pregnancy can cause already poor dental health to worsen. Dry mouth, dental erosion, ulcers and even loose teeth are possible. If you are pregnant or planning to be, you should talk to your dentist about what you can do to lower your risks.
More men are suffering from ED and have poor oral health than those who don’t. While this is just one statistic, health professionals are still unsure why we see a link between the two. The inflammation response to gum disease spreads throughout the body, including the vascular system. Some theories suggest that this inflammation affects the blood vessels in the prostate or surrounding areas, leading to ED. More studies are already underway to learn more about men’s health and gum disease.
Signs of Poor Oral Health
If your oral health isn’t the best, it’s never too late to start working with your dentist to turn it around. But how do you know that you have poor oral health? The following symptoms are a sure sign it’s time to make an appointment with your dentist:
- Bleeding gums
- Swollen and tender gums
- Gums pulling away from your teeth
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth or teeth falling out completely
- Teeth shifting
- Tooth sensitivity
Oral Hygiene Tips for Overall Wellness
Maintaining your oral health starts with good oral hygiene habits. You can start anytime by brushing and flossing daily. Be sure to use a quality mouthwash that contains fluoride. Other things you can do to improve your health include:
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine
- Eat a well-balanced diet low in sugar
- Exercise regularly
If you aren’t sure how to brush and floss properly, ask your dental hygienist at your next cleaning. They are more than happy to walk you through the process and even give you some tips!
At Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta, we care about your oral health and your overall well-being. We want you to be as healthy as possible by establishing routine dental care and even managing a chronic condition like diabetes that can impact your teeth and gums. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment so we can get you on the path toward better oral health.