The state of your teeth and gums and the gum disease is a window to your health.
While the eyes may be the window to your soul the mouth is the front door to your body. The state of your oral health can offer lots of clues about your overall health.
Overall health and the health of your mouth are more connected than you realise after all the same blood that travels through your teeth and gums travels around the rest of your body. The whole body is inter-connected and that is the essence of holistic healthcare and holistic dentistry.
Your oral health is connected to many health conditions beyond your mouth. Sometimes the first sign of a disease shows up in your mouth. Infections in your mouth, like gum disease which increase inflammation in your body and allow toxins and bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream, can cause problems in the rest of your body.
This is why as a holistic dentist I am very keen to educate my patients about these associations and assist them to improve their oral health and overall wellbeing.
Your mouth is teeming with bacteria, about 6 billion bacteria are present in the healthy human mouth. Normally these bacteria are kept under control with good dental hygiene like brushing and flossing.
Your mouth also has its own in-built defence system, saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that destroy bacteria and even viruses but there are times when harmful bacteria grow out of control and lead to gum disease or periodontitis which is a serious gum infection.
If your gums are healthy then bacteria from your mouth usually cannot enter your bloodstream. However, gum disease provides a port of entry for bacteria to travel into your body via the blood.
Any medications or treatments that reduce saliva flow or disrupt the balance of mouth bacteria can also lead to changes in your mouth that will make it easier for bacteria to pass into the rest of your body.
Research has shown that these bacteria and inflammation from your mouth are linked to health problems in other areas of your body.
Cardiovascular and Heart Disease – several types of heart problems are linked to oral health, such as heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and heart infections like endocarditis. This is due to bacteria from your mouth travelling to your heart and also because gum disease increases inflammation and the amount of C Reactive protein (CRP) in your body. Inflammation and its marker CRP are now been shown as causative factors for cardiovascular disease.
Pregnancy and Birth – gum disease has been liked to premature birth. Research has shown that disease-causing organisms in the pregnant woman’s mouth pass into the placenta and amniotic fluid increasing inflammation and possibly causing premature birth. Unfortunately treating periodontal/gum disease during pregnancy may be too late as infection may have already spread in the woman’s body. This is why it is so important to maintain excellent oral health before getting pregnant.
Diabetes – Diabetes increases your risk for gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth and oral infections like thrush. Also, poor oral health makes your diabetes more difficult to control. Infections cause your blood sugar to rise and more insulin is required to keep it under control.
Respiratory Disease – Serious gum disease can increase your risk of lung infections like pneumonia. Inhaling bacteria from your mouth into your lungs can result in serious chest infections. Pneumonia due to oral bacteria is common in people following general anaesthesia where a tube has been passed through the mouth into the trachea (windpipe).
There are research studies coming out now on a regular basis that link poor oral health to other conditions like infertility, erectile dysfunction, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.
The one thing that all these above conditions have in common is inflammation. Inflammation is now being seen as an underlying causative factor for many diseases and health issues in the body.
Gum disease plays a role in overall health as it increases the level of inflammation in the body and the number of bacteria in the bloodstream. By improving your oral health and maintaining a healthy mouth and gums you are going a long way to taking care of the rest of your body.
If you have red, swollen bleeding gums or any concerns about your oral health then speak to your dentist sooner rather than later – your life could depend on it.
For more information about oral health and wellbeing or if you are concerned about the health of your gums then give our dental practice in Kenmore a call to arrange a dental health and gum care consultation where we can answer your questions and address your concerns.