Oral Health: The Role it Plays in Total Body Health
My dentist told me I had bad breath. I was talking to someone in the waiting room at the time. Having bad breath is not only embarrassing; it is a symptom of chronic gum disease and may be a sign of an infection in your body. Foul odors in the mouth are usually caused by food and bacteria that accumulate on the teeth, tongue and other surfaces in the mouth. Although the oral cavity is naturally teeming with harmless bacteria (similar to the rest of the body), the bacteria will multiply and become harmful if not properly removed by brushing and flossing, as well as seeing a dentist regularly for dental cleanings. Poor dental care can result in illnesses such as heart disease, dementia, pneumonia, and complications with diabetes.
Illnesses Associated with Oral Bacteria
Cardiovascular Disease: Bacteria that cause gum disease (gingivitis) and periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to the arteries of the heart, possibly resulting in the formation of arterial plaque, either narrowing the arteries or completely blocking blood flow. Patients with atherosclerosis have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Research has shown that people with Periodontal Disease are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those without.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: Scientists have compared bacteria found in the brains of patients with dementia to the bacteria found in the brains of individuals without dementia. The bacteria that causes gingivitis has been found in 40% of the brains of patients with dementia. Oral bacteria or debris may travel to the brain via nerve channels or the bloodstream, triggering the body’s immune response. Over time, this causes nerve cell death, leading to memory loss.
Respiratory Infections: The bacteria that cause respiratory infections, like pneumonia, are also found in dental plaque. People with high levels of dental plaque may be at risk by breathing the bacteria in, sending it directly to the lungs.
Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop periodontal disease, an infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels or undetected diabetes can result in tooth loss, among other problems. In addition, untreated periodontal disease can make it difficult to control blood sugar levels. The body’s response to periodontal disease causes an increase in blood sugar. Simultaneous treatment of both diabetes and periodontal disease is ideal.
Achieving and maintaining oral health can play a major role in the health of your body. To avoid dental problems, control bad breath and reduce your risk of other illnesses, brush, floss, and rinse daily and visit a dentist regularly.