Gum disease and other oral health issues don’t just impact your teeth and gums. It has become increasingly clear with each passing year and from each new study that poor oral health can lead to or worsen conditions as diverse as pregnancy complications, heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes.
Bacteria in the mouth cause destruction of the gums and other soft tissue around the teeth, a condition called periodontal disease. As it progresses, you can lose your teeth from the decreased bone in the jaw, but good oral hygiene and the help of a good holistic dental team – like the one Dr. Carli Katz has at 613 Dentistry – can make a huge difference by preventing or stopping periodontal disease.
These and other medical problems have been linked to gum disease:
Gum disease can worsen diabetes, and research has shown that people with diabetes are more likely to get gum disease and to experience severe symptoms. The reason is that people with diabetes can’t process sugar very well, leading to excess sugar in the blood and therefore in the mouth. This sugar feeds bacteria and causes bacteria colonies to grow.
Additionally, diabetes can cause blood vessels to thicken, making it take longer for sugar in the mouth to naturally be carried away, giving the bacteria a longer time to feed on the sugar present.
There are two primary theories regarding how heart disease and gum disease are linked. One says that bacteria that cause gum disease travels via the bloodstream to the arteries of the heart, where they increase blood clot formation and narrow arteries, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack.
Another theory is that plaque buildup causes swollen arteries that make preexisting heart conditions worse. In fact, the American Academy of Periodontology has released research showing that people whose bodies react in this way to mouth bacteria are likely to experience heart disease.
Women are more likely than men to have periodontal disease because of the hormonal fluctuations that happen naturally as part of puberty, menopause and other life phases. Getting pregnant adds another kind of hormonal fluctuation that increases the likelihood and severity of heart disease further.
Additionally, pregnant women with gum disease are shown to be more likely to develop preeclampsia and have premature and underweight babies. Prostaglandin, the hormone that induces labor, is also created by gum disease, meaning that the disease, not the natural phase of pregnancy, can induce labor in some instances. Further, the chance of developing heart disease during pregnancy is increased by c-reactive proteins raised by gum disease, and these proteins also negatively impact preeclampsia and birth weight.
A range of respiratory diseases – from emphysema and COPD to pneumonia and more – are often more severe when gum disease and other sources of oral bacteria are present. As you can imagine, oral bacteria can very easily travel to the lungs as a part of breathing, and then that bacteria can grow into colonies there, creating a bacterial infection of the lungs.
Just as bad, gum tissue inflammation can cause inflammation in the lung linings, which is known to make pneumonia worse. And what’s more, people with respiratory issues often also have issues with their immune systems, so bacteria anywhere in their bodies can easily grow and spread, leading to rapidly decreasing overall health.