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Can Poor Oral Health Lead To Other More Serious Health Problems?
Generally, most everyone is aware that regular brushing and flossing is the key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
However, what you might not know, is some recent studies suggest there now may be a direct link between poor oral hygiene and a whole host of other health issues, namely heart disease.
If you have ever wondered or are concerned about the connection between your oral health and your heart health, then read on.
We’ll do our best to clear up the subject as well as give you some pointers on how you can keep both your mouth and your heart health in tip-top shape.
The Theory of How Oral Health and Heart Disease Are Connected
First, let’s look at the theory of how oral health and heart disease may be connected.
On the surface, it might seem strange to link the two, since your heart is located quite a distance away from your mouth. However, the key to this theory lies in your bloodstream.
If you don’t keep your mouth clean and healthy, over time a significant amount of bacteria will start to build up in and around your teeth and gums.
If left unchecked, these bacteria can work their way into your bloodstream. In fact, those who don’t take care of their oral health often develop gum problems, giving these bacteria the perfect opportunity to get into your blood and spread through the rest of your body.
Ultimately, everything in your bloodstream works its way back to one place: The Heart!
There, the bacteria can attach themselves to any weak or damaged tissue, and cause inflammation or infection. Any heart infections can quickly develop into much more severe issues, so you certainly want to avoid these wherever possible.
What’s more, this could also lead to clogged arteries or even strokes, making this a very worrying trend indeed.
If this theory is correct, people may be putting themselves at a much higher risk of heart disease by not taking care of their teeth and gums.
Unfortunately, though, things aren’t quite as simple as that.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Heart Health
For many years now, doctors and scientists have been trying to determine whether there is a direct or indirect link between oral hygiene and heart disease.
There does seem to be some connection, but how much remains to be revealed in the scientific and clinical literature.
Roughly six years ago, the American Heart Association looked at all the available evidence available at the time and concluded there wasn’t enough to definitively prove a link between poor oral and heart disease.
That said, they also noted that the existing evidence doesn’t disprove a link either.
While there’s not a link between actually treating gum disease and lowering the risk of heart disease, it could well be that the underlying issues are indeed connected.
If we look at things a bit closer, though, we see that there’s a lot of research that does show that periodontitis (the medical term for gum disease) does tend to put you at higher risk of multiple medical problems, including cardiovascular disease.
In particular, those suffering from periodontitis tend to have thicker blood vessels in their neck, caused by inflammation. These blood vessels feed directly into the gums, so it would be fair to conclude that the two are linked.
Thicker blood vessels mean that it’s much harder for your blood to flow properly. Since all your veins and arteries are ultimately connected, a blockage even in one place can have a significant effect on your whole circulatory system- so this inflammation will end up having an impact on your heart, too.
Another possible connection lies in the fact that people with diabetes tend to have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, too.
This point is agreed on by everyone – those with diabetes can improve their condition via regular teeth cleaning.
That’s not to say that it will eliminate all risk, but it still shows that if you keep your mouth clean and healthy, you could well be helping your heart, too.
While there’s not enough evidence right now to definitively say that poor oral hygiene puts you at higher risk of heart disease, there does seem to be a link between these two conditions.
Take Treating Gum Disease and Prevention Seriously
In particular, those who don’t take gum disease seriously, don’t have it diagnosed, and take steps to heal reverse the problem, are putting themselves at more risk than those who keep their teeth and gums beautiful and healthy.
The problem with this is that a lot of people with gum disease don’t even realize that they have it- and therefore put off visiting the dentist for as long as possible. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the different symptoms of gum disease, so you can ensure you get it treated should you develop it.
The most obvious symptom of periodontitis is inflammation of the gums. Just how inflamed your gums become can vary depending on the type of infection, but generally, they will become red, swollen, and sore to the touch.
If your gums constantly ache, or they only hurt when you eat, either sign, may point to an underlying problem. Another worrying sign is if your gums start bleeding, especially when you eat or brush your teeth.
Don’t just shrug off these symptoms as common. After all, you wouldn’t ignore any other part of your body started bleeding for no reason.
If you spot either of these signs, you should immediately make an appointment with your dentist to get the problem checked.
Systemic Bad Breath May Point To A Deeper Underlying Health Issue – Ignore At Your Own Risk
Another sign of gum disease and one that many people miss is systemic bad breath, or always having a bad taste in your mouth.
This is often caused by a buildup of bacteria in your mouth – and as with any living organism, those bacteria excrete waste after they’ve eaten.
This fact alone should be enough to have you reaching for the mouthwash, but again, make sure you visit the dentist to tackle the cause of the issue.
While we may not be able to definitively say that dental problems can lead to trouble with your heart, the evidence is enough to convince a lot of people- we included.
In our opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health, so you should do all you can to keep your mouth nice and clean.
After all, ignored or untreated dental problems can cause a whole heap of other health issues. Why take the risk, especially if they could wind up having an impact on your heart, too?
Instead of just letting things slide, and allowing bacteria to turn your mouth into their private party, make sure you brush and floss twice a day at a minimum and regularly schedule check-ups with your dentist.
Your whole body will thank you in the long run! 🙂