Everyone knows poor oral health has a direct effect on the teeth and gums, causing decay, infections, gum disease, and eventually, tooth loss. But very few people realize the impact oral health issues can have on their overall health and wellness – and that means they’re leaving themselves exposed to an array of serious medical problems.

Oral Bacteria
The mouth is home to millions of tiny bacteria. Many of them are helpful, aiding in breaking down food as part of the first steps in digestion, fighting off bad breath, and even helping prevent more serious oral diseases. But plenty of bacteria found on the tooth surfaces and the soft tissues of the mouth can be very bad, not just for your teeth and gums but for the rest of your body as well.

Sure, we all know to cover our mouths when we sneeze, even if we don’t have a cold; that’s because a sneeze can contain a huge amount of germs that can be passed on to another person. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that those same germs can cause problems in our own bodies. And that’s just what medical research has shown.

Oral Health and Your Body
Gum disease is caused by harmful bacteria that cling to the tooth surfaces and eventually travel down the tooth to the root pocket where they “set up shop” and eventually weaken tooth roots and cause teeth to fall out. But long before that advanced stage of gum disease, those same bacteria can cause inflammation and tenderness in the gums, resulting in tiny openings in the gum tissue that bleed – and that can also admit bacteria to your bloodstream. Once in your blood, these tiny pathogens can travel to other areas of your body, including areas and systems most prone to the bad effects of inflammation.

Plenty of research has examined the association between gum disease and systemic diseases related to inflammation. For instance, several studies have shown gum disease can have a significant impact on diabetes – and the effect goes both ways: People who have diabetes are more likely to have gum disease (possibly because it’s much harder to prevent and control infections), and gum disease can make it much harder to control glucose levels, even raising your glucose, which in turn can make diabetes much more serious.

Gum disease and the inflammation it causes have also been linked with heart disease and stroke. Researchers think these links are probably related to the bacteria’s release of toxins that cause fatty plaques to form inside artery walls, preventing the normal flow of blood and depriving the heart and brain of needed oxygen and nutrients. The same toxins also may cause the liver to produce too many proteins, which in turn can contribute to heart disease and stroke.

And still more studies have suggested a connection between periodontal disease and some types of cancer, including kidney, pancreatic and blood cancers.

Preventing the Effects of Poor Oral Health
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy takes some work, but with good habits, you can easily get – and keep – the upper hand. It all begins with regular brushing and flossing using the right techniques (your hygienist can critique your results and give you tips to improve both these important routines). And of course, having twice-yearly checkups and cleanings is essential for catching and treating gum disease in its earliest stages, before the bacteria have a chance to cause local or widespread damage.

Want to make sure you stay as healthy as possible? Call Princeton Center for Dental Aesthetics and Implants at 609-924-1414 and schedule a dental checkup today.