Did you know that not cleaning your teeth could lead to death? Italian researchers reported in 2009 that moderately inflamed gums caused narrowing of the carotid artery that leads to the brain. They also found that after teeth cleaning the inflammation disappeared and the carotid artery returned to normal. This is important because, if allowed to continue, narrowing of the carotid artery can lead to devastating cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and even death. The fact is, oral health is related to our broader, general health, and associated with many other diseases.
Connection Between Oral Health and Disease
According to the Mayo Clinic, our oral health can affect, be affected by, or be associated with a variety of diseases, including, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Sjorgen’s, and even premature and low weight births.
One of the lesser known links is respiratory disease that affects the lungs and other parts that help us breath. These diseases can include a head cold, pneumonia, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which sometimes lead to death. Pneumonia can be caused by oral fluids infested with bacteria that the body fails to control. According to Weidlich and her team of researchers who studied 19 reports, “…there is fair evidence of an association of pneumonia with oral health…” They went on to report “…that improved oral hygiene and professional oral health care reduces the progression or occurrence of respiratory diseases among high-risk elderly adults. A recent prospective study conducted with 697 elderly individuals observed that the adjusted mortality due to pneumonia was 3.9 times higher in subjects with periodontal (gum) disease.”
Diabetes, a disease of insulin deficiency, is another well known disease with close ties to poor oral hygiene and gum disease. The disease elevates sugar levels in blood and oral secretions. The excess sugar increases bacterial plaque that can lead to gum disease, a problem affecting 75% of adult populations. Diabetes is a disease that makes oral conditions worse, which then makes life for the diabetic patient harder than it needs to be. If allowed to fester, deteriorating gums and a weakened immune system from diabetes will hasten the arrival and danger of other diseases.
Treating and Preventing Periodontal Gum Disease
The good news is gum disease is very treatable and preventable. In the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, September, 2013, Dr. M. Gulati referred to our mouths as “ ‘the gateway of the body,’ periodontal disease – ‘a silent disease’ and periopathogens – ‘termites’.” To stop the disease we need to eliminate the “termites,” the bacteria in our mouths cause all the problems. The best way to accomplish both is to first, understand the proper way to clean and floss our teeth, use the right kind of toothbrush, or even better, an electric toothbrush, and visit the dentist on a regular basis for teeth cleaning. Most importantly, if your dentist finds a gum infection beginning, or an infection that has established itself, take care of it right away. It could add years to your life. If you need help finding a dentist near you, please visit our Find a Dentist page.