Our mouths play host to billions of microscopic microorganisms, which form a symbiotic relationship that can harm or protect our oral health. At the same time, a growing body of evidence has shown that these bacteria can also influence the health of our hearts, brains and other vital organs. Here is how your oral health can impact other parts of your body, along with some tips for avoiding long-term problems.
Research suggests our oral health can influence the health of our respiratory systems. According to a study appearing in the Journal of Periodontology, people who have poor periodontal health may be at a higher risk of developing acute bronchitis, pneumonia or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
To reach their findings, researchers evaluated 200 subjects. Of these, half had been hospitalized in the past for some form of respiratory disease, while the other half were completely healthy. After giving each participant a comprehensive oral evaluation, the researchers found that subjects who had respiratory diseases also had worse periodontal health compared to the control group.
While they can’t say for sure, the researchers suspect that periodontal disease may expose lung tissue to more oral pathogens, which could promote or exacerbate respiratory disease. Whatever the case, this study is yet another example of why it’s so important to practice good oral hygiene and get regular dental checkups.
Scientific studies suggest that poor oral health could affect our brains in a number of ways. According to research out of The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) School of Medicine and Dentistry, harmful oral bacteria could prompt physiological changes which promote the development of dementia.
Experts believe that high levels of harmful oral bacteria could enter the bloodstream and cause the body to launch an aggressive immune response. This reaction could cause the body to release chemicals that kill neurons. The immune response could also trigger long-term inflammation which could potentially harm the brain.
Other studies have shown that poor oral health could affect our brains by increasing the risk of stroke and causing nutritional deficiencies due to premature tooth loss. To keep your mind healthy as you age, it’s important to brush and floss to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. You should also schedule routine dental exams to catch minor issues before they evolve into serious problems.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, poor oral health can cause widespread inflammation within the body, which can promote a range of health problems including kidney disease. At the same time, deteriorating renal function can leave patients more susceptible to oral health problems. While some of this is due to the nature of kidney disease; medications and treatments can also cause problems.
With this in mind, it’s important for patients to talk to their dentists if they have had a kidney transplant or are currently receiving treatment for kidney problems. In addition to creating a personalized treatment plan, your dentist can keep a watchful eye for potential signs of tooth decay and oral disease, which may be more likely depending on your unique situation.
It’s also important for people with healthy kidneys to practice good oral hygiene to reduce the risk of inflammation which could trigger a host of issues that affect more than just the kidneys.
Several studies have drawn a link between poor dental health and cardiovascular disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that people are at a greater risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and clogged arteries if their mouths harbor problematic oral bacteria.
While they don’t know the exact cause, experts suspect that problems may occur when harmful oral bacteria migrate away from the mouth to other parts of the body. One specific example is endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner lining of the heart. This usually happens when bacteria from other areas of your body, including the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach to the heart.
There’s strong evidence that you can reduce your risk of heart disease by practice good oral hygiene and making regular visits to the dentist. At the same time, you should try to maintain a healthy balance of good oral bacteria by eating a nutritious diet high in fibrous fruits and vegetables. You should also avoid tobacco products which can promote the development of harmful oral bacteria and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to research, there is strong evidence that periodontal disease could increase a person’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, one key study found that subjects with a history of gum disease had a 64 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer compared to subjects with no such history.
Other studies have drawn a link between poor dental health and diabetes. This relationship is especially complex since diabetes can also increase the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.
You can reduce your risk of diseases related to the pancreas by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercise and by practicing good oral hygiene. If you have diabetes, it’s important to tell your dentist, so he or she can design a personalized treatment plan that can guard against oral health problems.
Pregnant women should be especially concerned about their oral health, even if they’ve never experienced issues in the past. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can leave women especially vulnerable to tooth decay, gum disease and a myriad of other oral health problems.
Research suggests that oral health issues can also contribute to a number of complications for pregnant women and their babies. This includes low birth weight and respiratory problems.
Because oral health is such an important concern for pregnant women and their unborn babies, it’s important to tell your dentist if you are expecting. He or she can respond by creating a personalized plan that will protect the pregnant mother’s oral health and keep a watchful eye for any potential complications.