Oral Health, Gum Disease, and Related Complications
Concerns regarding oral health are much more than cosmetic. It was once believed that the worst case scenario of gum disease, was the loss of a tooth. Now, we know that oral health is connected to other internal systems, influencing overall health.
When one’s oral health is not maintained, inflammation of the gums becomes a concern. This can lead to gingivitis, allowing bacteria to penetrate the gum line, entering the blood stream. This is how further complications occur, which are preventable when the right advice is given.
How Poor Oral Health Affects Various Organs and Systems
It is important to stress the fact that poor oral health not only threatens one’s teeth, gums, and mouth; but also affects various organs, as well as pregnancies. If you do not take care of their oral health, you may experience some of the following complications.
1. Heart Disease
When individuals have gum disease, research suggests that their risk of both stroke and heart disease increases. Some studies even suggest that gum disease may contribute to these negative effects just as smoking or elevated cholesterol would. When bacteria enters the bloodstream via infected gums, the chances of clogged arteries increases.
There have been multiple studies which have looked at the effects of gum disease on heart health. One study in particular, focused on 1,200 United States veterans, over the course of a 35 year timeframe. Through extensive testing and regular check-ups at the dentist, it was determined that those individuals who had moderate to severe gum disease, increased their chances of heart disease or a stroke.
2. Lung Health
Lung disease is often associated with smoking or low immune systems, but researchers now believe that gum disease may play a role. When gum disease is present, the risk of respiratory infections, COPD, and bronchitis increases.
Bacteria and germs from the mouth and throat, can affect one’s respiratory tract and lungs. This bacteria can cause infections or can worsen pre-existing conditions. When bacteria accumulates in the oral cavity, it can travel to the lungs, causing complications such as pneumonia.
There is a distinct relationship between gum disease and diabetes. Researchers have found that individuals that suffer from gum disease, can actually worsen their diabetes. One study looked at patients who had diabetes, focusing on their gum health and insulin injections. Those subjects that were treated for gum disease, required insulin less often.
Unfortunately, gum disease has been linked to premature delivery. One study focused on 100 women who had recently gave birth or were pregnant at the time. It was found that women who had periodontal disease, were seven times more likely to prematurely give birth, in comparison to those that had healthy gums.
Researchers believe that the connection lies within the bacteria that enters the bloodstream through brushing or eating. While pregnant, women naturally have prostaglandin (hormone-like fatty acids) in their blood. It is believed that this bacteria, affects the levels of this fluid, rising levels too soon. Typically, when prostaglandin levels rise, women give birth (around nine months into their pregnancy). This could be what is triggering premature labor.