Within the last decade or so, as doctors have started taking a more holistic approach to treating their patients, they’ve shown growing interest in how our oral health is tied to our overall well-being. As it turns out, not only can our oral health be an indicator of various processes and health issues in our body, but it can also be a cause of some very serious problems. Here is why good oral hygiene is more important than simply having a nice smile.
What is periodontitis?
Things like inadequate oral hygiene, unhealthy food, smoking and plaque buildup are known to cause an infection and inflammation of the gums around your teeth. For as long as the infection lasts, the inflammation usually continues, wreaking havoc on your gums. The early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, can cause symptoms like swollen and red gums, bleeding, a bad taste in your mouth and bad breath. Unless you treat your gum disease during this stage, it can easily advance into periodontitis, severe gum disease. When it gets to this point, the damage done to your gums, as well as your teeth, becomes irreversible. As the inflammation wears away your gums and the bone structure which keeps your teeth in place, you can actually end up with your teeth loose and falling out. And this is only the beginning of the problem.
Periodontitis and heart disease
Although the connection between these two health issues hasn’t been properly explained yet, it’s been evident that periodontitis and heart disease often appear together. It seems that the vast majority of people suffering from heart disease also have periodontitis, which is why some doctors even refer their patients to their dentist upon diagnosing them with heart disease. These two conditions share a number of common risk factors, including smoking, excess weight and unhealthy diet. Furthermore, there are those who think that periodontitis can directly increase the risk of heart disease. The problem arises when the inflammation of gums turns into inflammation of blood vessels, enhancing the probability of heart attack, a stroke and increased blood pressure. As cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, it’s no wonder that Australians are increasingly visiting their dentists. Even if they are getting braces or orthodontic plates from their trustworthy orthodontist in Chatswood, they’ll feel free to ask for advice on oral hygiene and ways to prevent periodontitis.
Periodontitis and diabetes
People suffering from diabetes have difficulty processing sugar, which is the result of a lack of insulin, the hormone whose function is to turn sugar into energy. Gum inflammation actually diminishes the body’s ability to exploit insulin, which means that it can become even more difficult for body to control blood sugar, and this is what makes the connection between diabetes and periodontitis probably the most serious one of all the mouth-body connections. The worst thing is, their relationship works both ways, meaning that not only can periodontitis lead to elevated blood sugar levels, but high blood sugar forms the perfect conditions for any infection to advance, including gum infections. On the other hand, dealing with one problem can help get the other under control, so make sure you brush and floss your teeth regularly and keep track of any changes in your mouth.
Periodontitis and pregnancy
There are ongoing studies on the connection between periodontitis and premature birth, and the results are quite conflicting. Some have led to the conclusion that women suffering from periodontitis have a higher chance of delivering their babies too early, which can create serious health risk for the infants, including the risk of lung disease and heart disease. Other studies haven’t really discovered a link between the two. However, there are many researchers looking into the possibility of gum disease being a cause of either premature birth, or low birth weight of babies. They seem to believe that periodontitis can slow down the normal development of the fetus in the womb, due to the inflammation and the infection. Although men are more likely to get gum disease than women, the situation is slightly different when a woman is pregnant, since the hormonal changes can lead to an increased risk of periodontitis. This is why it’s essential for pregnant women, or those who are planning their pregnancy, to visit their dentist and check for any signs of gum infection.
Periodontitis can cause a series of problems in your body, proving that your oral health is tightly connected to the rest of your body. This is why it’s crucial that you maintain good oral hygiene at all times, and that you visit your dentist regularly, about twice a year. Plus, try to avoid risky behavior, such as eating junk food or smoking, to lower the chances of gum infection and anything else that may follow.