Healthy teeth are about more than just a pretty smile. Your oral health has a major effect on the overall health of your body, not just in your mouth. By maintaining healthy teeth and gums, you can make your body healthier from head to toe.
Oral Bacteria and Health
Bacteria in the mouth cause tooth decay – by feeding on the sugars in the foods and drinks we consume – they leave behind the waste, in the form of a biofilm known as dental plaque.
Our mouths have lots of bacteria that is usually harmless. (Did you know that the bacteria in our body aids with digestion and other biological tasks?) However, if you do not brush or floss regularly, bacteria can reach dangerously high levels. When this happens, tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections can be the nasty result.
Related Article: Tooth Decay Dangers: Can It Kill You?
Health Risks Throughout the Body
There is evidence that the oral bacteria and high level of inflammation associated with the serious gum disease known as periodontitis can play a role in diseases in other parts of the body.
The following health issues and diseases are linked with poor gum health:
- Infections from Abscesses: In some rare instances, severe tooth decay can lead to an abscess. The infection can travel to the heart, brain, or lungs, causing severe illness or even death.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: There are researchers who suggest that heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries are linked to the inflammation and infections caused by too much oral bacteria.
- Pregnancy and Birth Complications: Severe gum infection has been linked to premature births and low birth weight.
- Endocarditis: This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart. This can occur when bacteria from other parts of your body, such as your mouth, move through your bloodstream and become attached to damaged areas in the heart.
The Impact of Gum Disease
Did you know that 85% of Americans suffer from gum disease, yet only 60% of those infected know they have gum disease? Gum disease is an infection of the tissues and bone that support your teeth and is the leading cause of tooth loss. However, the impact can extend beyond your mouth.
Also known as periodontitis, gum disease can significantly affect your general health.
Research shows that there is a connection between gum disease and other serious conditions such as:
- oral and pancreatic cancer
- brain stroke
- heart disease
- gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia from oral bacteria that spread through the blood stream
- gum disease also impacts those with diabetes by making it difficult to regulate blood glucose levels
If you have one of these systemic conditions, it is important to talk to your dentist about your risk for gum disease and the best treatment options.
Related Article: Dental Health Awareness: Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Gum Disease Causes:
- Poor dental hygiene
- Sugar and acid
- Tooth abnormalities
- Poor dental work
- Wisdom teeth
- Tooth grinding
Gum Disease Symptoms Can Range from:
- chronic bad breath
- red, swollen gums
- bleeding when you brush
- painful chewing
- loose or sensitive teeth
- sensitive or receding gums
Sometimes there are no signs of gum disease, which is why it’s essential to visit your dentist every six months for a checkup.
Related Article: How to Stop Bad Breath: A Stinky Situation
Gum Disease is Treatable
The three goals of treatment involve:
- reducing inflammation
- decreasing pocket depth (the space between your tooth and gum)
- stopping bone loss
Initial treatment options can include Laser Pocket Disinfection or scaling and root planning (also known as deep cleaning). There are surgery options for advanced gum disease.
Protecting Your Oral Health
By protecting the health of your teeth and gums, you can keep yourself healthier too. Practice good oral hygiene daily to prevent overgrowth of bacteria.
- Brushing your teeth at least twice per day
- Floss daily to remove plaque between teeth
- Avoid tobacco use, as this can cause irritation in your gums
- Limit sugary snacks, which can feed bacteria and increase their growth
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months
You should also have regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you notice a problem with your teeth or gums, call for an appointment right away. The sooner these are handled, the sooner you will be back to full health. Charles R. Kimes, DDS provides general and family dentistry in the Overland Park, Kansas area to keep his patients healthy – including healthy teeth, healthy gums, and a healthy body. Time for your checkup? Call to schedule today.
Local dentist, Dr. Charles R. Kimes, DDS, and his team at Overland Park Dentistry look forward to having the opportunity to care for you and your family with preventative, restorative or cosmetic dentistry. To schedule your dental appointment with your Overland Park Dentist, contact us at our south Overland Park office at (913) 647-8700 or our north Overland Park office at (913) 341-2380.