When we think about our oral health, overall health rarely comes to mind. However, studies are showing more and more that diseases that occur all over the body are linked to oral health and tooth decay. Make sure you brush your teeth in the morning and at night, floss daily, and make time for those teeth cleaning appointments every six months. These steps will greatly benefit your oral health and also help your overall health.
Which diseases are caused by or worsened by tooth decay? Let’s go over some of them now and see how they develop over time.
Common Risk Factors
Most diseases have more than one factor causing them, and many have the common factor of gum and tooth health. Even though it is preventable, oral disease is the most widespread chronic disease. Some common risk factors that oral disease shares with other chronic conditions are:
Tobacco use increases the risk for oral and other cancers, coronary heart disease, stroke, and periodontal disease.
Poor diet increases risk for dental caries, coronary heart disease, cancer, and obesity.
Poor hygiene increases the risk for periodontal disease and other bacterial and inflammatory conditions.
While these are just a few examples, they show that there is more to a disease than just oral health. Good dental hygiene is an important fundamental factor for your overall health.
Diseases Linked to Tooth Decay
Heart disease is closely and frequently correlated to bad oral hygiene. Some research has shown a great risk for heart disease in people that have periodontitis, also known as gum disease or infection of the gums. Infection of the gums can also cause plaque to build up on your arteries. People with gum disease are two times as likely to have heart disease than those who don’t.
Patients who have lost teeth or have significant loss of tissue or bone around the gums have an increased risk for stroke. Some evidence also shows that very severe cases of periodontitis can also develop atherosclerotic plaque, which can build up and cause heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers from the University of Bristol also found that bleeding gums can be linked to heart attack or stroke. This happens due to the infected blood from a person’s gums entering into the blood stream and sticking to the platelets. These then form blood clots and block the arteries of the heart and brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
People who have periodontal disease are also at risk for getting pre-diabetes. Once diabetes develops, it affects your metabolism and can result in high blood glucose levels and many unpleasant health issues.
Poor oral health can also lead to kidney disease, which affects bone health and blood pressure. Some periodontists have found that toothless adults are at a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
Alzheimer’s is a debilitating brain disease that causes dementia and low cognitive function. While researchers continue to seek answers to the cause of Alzheimer’s, they have found that inflammation of the gums appears to be a factor. The most common cause linked to the disease is inflammation from chronic periodontal disease starting at a younger age. While research is still being done on this, it seems that gum disease could be a preventable factor in fighting Alzheimer’s.
Studies done in 2010 by New York University (NYU) researchers concluded that there was a link between Alzheimer’s and gum inflammation after 20 years of data collected. After comparing cognitive functions at age 50 and 70, the research found that gum disease at the age of 70 was strongly linked to low scores of cognitive functions.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Since most of the diseases discussed above are linked to gum disease, it’s important to understand that gum disease stems from poor oral health and not taking care of your teeth. If your teeth start to decay, the infection and decay will go into your gums, which will then cause gum disease and other health problems.
By taking good care of your teeth and getting your professional cleanings, you are already reducing the risk of getting a serious illness later. If you already have one of these conditions, it is vital that you continue to take good care of your teeth so that you don't exacerbate the symptoms and progression of the disease.
The American Dental Hygienists Association recommends that people brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day to have the best oral health. The guidelines also stress the importance of flossing and using a mouthwash daily as well.
If you want more information on oral health, dentistry, and more, keep an eye on Flintlock Dental’s blog!