How Poor Dental Care Can Affect Your Health
Perhaps it’s because the medical profession draws a line between dentists and doctors, or perhaps we do it ourselves. But for whatever reason, we seem to think that dental care and the rest of our bodies are two separate domains, independent of one another. The problem is that they’re not. And problems that start in our mouth, thanks to rotting teeth, soon spread and affect other parts of the body in ways that we don’t always expect.
The major way in which problems in our mouth can affect the rest of our bodies is through gum disease. Gum disease is usually the result of poor dental hygiene. Plaque starts to build up along the gum line – the part of the mouth that holds the teeth in their positions – and infection makes its way down to the bones and roots that hold teeth in place. If caught early, the damage can be limited. But if left to fester and become the most severe form of gum disease, periodontal disease, it can actually destroy the bone cavities that hold teeth in place. Not good.
As you might expect, bacteria that can destroy your bones also has knock-on effects in the rest of your body. Here are some of the problems you can expect from having bad teeth.
A Higher Risk Of Dementia
Dementia is a growing problem among the elderly. On an age-standardised basis – meaning that scientists control for the age of the population – more people today than ever before are suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, more people in their 80s today are getting the disease than they did thirty years ago. It’s a worrying trend, fuelled by crummy modern lifestyles and possibly other environmental factors outside of individual control.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure why exactly it’s the case, but tooth loss as a result of poor dental hygiene is a risk factor in itself for loss of memory and the early signs of dementia. According to a study published in Behavioral and Brain Functions, the periodontal bacteria that cause tooth loss release harmful toxic chemicals that lead to higher brain inflammation. Higher levels of inflammation then, in turn, lead to damage to the brain tissue and could make it more susceptible to the amyloid plaques believed to cause the disease.
A Higher Risk Of Heart Disease
Common sense would suggest that our hearts and our teeth have nothing to do with each other. But in this case, our common sense is wrong. People who lose teeth because of infections in their mouths are at higher risk of heart disease.
It’s not the first time that bacteria affecting other parts of the have been associated with heart disease. For instance, before fatty western diets came along, the main cause of heart disease was actually strep throat. The bacteria that cause strep throat, Streptococcus, could migrate from the lungs to the heart. Once there, they do battle with the body’s immune system which causes the heart to become permanently scarred. If the scarring reaches a critical level, the heart can no longer perform its function, and the patient dies.
Heart Facts You Need To Know
People who have gum disease are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to those who don’t. The reason for this is that the periodontal bacteria enter the bloodstream from the gums and cause plaques on the inside of the artery to form. The bacteria in these plaques then release a type of protein that clogs the arteries, increasing the chances of a heart attack.
Many people suffer from problems with their sinuses on a regular basis. Often, it’s because they’ve been infected by bacteria from the external environment. But chronic inflammation of sinuses may also be the result of ongoing problems in their mouth. It has long been known that sinusitis is more common in people who are suffering from tooth infections, meaning that it might take a visit to both the doctor and the dentist to sort the problem out.
Diabetes is often considered to be the quintessential disease of civilization: the one that Western societies get, but those eating traditional diets do not. The link between tooth decay and diabetes is especially strong. According to EmaxHealth, over 95 percent of adults who have type II diabetes also have periodontal disease, and around a third of those have the disease so severe that it’s led to the loss of one or more teeth.
Diabetes and periodontal disease go hand in hand. Periodontal disease causes inflammation which makes it harder for insulin to do its job. And diabetes itself leads to higher levels of blood sugar, fuelling the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
Everything in our body is connected and that is why good dental care is essential to preventing disease.