Maintaining your good health includes many factors, such as eating a healthy diet, daily exercise, and getting enough sleep. While all these practices can be important in staying healthy, one that is often neglected is the need for proper oral care. Your teeth and gums require daily upkeep to prevent problems that may cause tooth loss or infection. Gum disease can be a major contributor to poor oral health and cause other medical problems that may have far-reaching consequences.
1. Increased Risk of Heart Attack
Neglecting gum health may have a negative effect on your heart. Some studies have suggested a link between cardiac episodes and gum disease, and while the effects may take time to manifest themselves, the results could be deadly. As bacteria from plaque buildup is swallowed and enters the bloodstream, it could travel to the heart and form clots that may block its arteries. This issue can be especially dangerous if you or your family have a history of heart problems.
If you have been neglecting your gums and increasing the risk of a heart attack, it is never too late to reverse the damage. Visit your dentist to have a proper cleaning and ask him or her about techniques that help keep your gums healthy, such as regular flossing or using a special toothbrush that fights plaque. Talk about any heart problems you may have and whether your dentist has any suggestions about the best way to care for your gums.
2. Increased Inflammation
The bacteria created by gum disease can cause increased inflammation throughout the body and exacerbate certain chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis and type II diabetes. This may cause problems such as swollen joints, muscle pain and weakness, and reduced blood flow to the hands and feet. If you have type II diabetes, maintaining your gum health can be especially important, as high blood sugar can increase inflammation issues and put you at greater risk for further health problems.
Working with your endocrinologist and your dentist can help you reduce the risk of inflammation due to gum disease. Talk to your dentist about any inflammatory diseases you currently suffer from and whether there are any ways you can improve your oral health. You may want to remember that almost any type of food, not just sugary snacks, can cause plaque, so it is important to brush after eating.
3. Increased Risk of Cancer
Gum disease may lead to more than tooth loss and pain. Some studies suggest a link between the bacteria gingivitis causes and the development of cancerous tumors. The link is strongest with pancreatic cancer, which has one of the lowest survival rates of most types of the disease. It may be that the enzymes in mouth bacteria cause the formation of tumors, and the risk may be greater depending on the severity or advancement of gum disease.
If your family has a history of cancer or you have other health issues that increase your risk, then developing a consistent oral hygiene routine may be something to consider boosting good health. Brush at least three times a day and floss before bedtime. You may want to ask your dentist about a plaque-fighting oral rinse that supports gum health and what other steps you can take to prevent gingivitis.
4. Irregular Heartbeat
If you have poor oral health and suffer from heart palpitations, the bacteria created by gum disease may be to blame. This can be especially true if you have only recently developed this issue. Bacterial inflammation that reaches the heart can cause an irregular heartbeat, otherwise known as atrial fibrillation. This condition can cause chest pain, sweating, and even lead to a coronary event. While gum disease may not be a major contributor to this ailment, maintaining proper oral health may reduce your risk of developing it.
One way to reduce bacteria and plaque present on your gums is to have an annual dental scaling. Dentists such as George Hatzigiannis, who have studied the effects of bacteria and oral pathology, can educate you about the importance of scaling and other procedures that may improve gum health. The more you understand about what role your gums and gingivitis may play in your overall health, the more steps you can take to improve it in between professional treatments.
5. Poor Diet
Just as tooth loss can affect your ability to eat certain foods, so can the pain and inflammation of gum disease. Discomfort may cause you to change your diet or avoid healthy foods that are hard or crunchy, such as carrots and protein-rich nuts. You may also eat less and stop meeting your necessary caloric intake, which may lead to fatigue, poor memory, and dizziness. Maintaining a healthy mouth can prevent this problem and support your ability to eat a balanced diet.
Gum disease can cause a variety of surprising health issues that may affect your heart, joints, and aggravate any existing chronic medical conditions. However, visiting your dentist regularly and following a daily oral care routine can lower the risk of this painful condition and support better overall health.