Dental care doesn't just benefit your teeth and gums. It plays a crucial role in maintaining your overall health. While oral conditions such as gingivitis and periodontal disease can cause bleeding gums and severe pain and eventually may even cause tooth loss poor oral and dental health can have a negative impact and result in other much more serious medical conditions.
Oral health's connection to health conditions
Women's health especially during pregnancy for instance can be greatly impacted by a variety of dental conditions. Researchers have linked poor oral health and the gum condition periodontitis with hormonal changes unfavorable pregnancy outcomes and osteoporosis. This also includes developing a higher risk of preeclampsia in pregnant moms as well as negatively impacting fertility.
While the risk of developing diabetes in the general population has skyrocketed poor oral hygiene can increase a pregnant women's risk of developing gestational diabetes. Since many disease processes including diabetes are linked to higher levels of systemic inflammation it may be that the increased build-up of inflammation through periodontal disease may contribute to this increased risk.
Another study also examined the relationship between the inflammation associated with gum diseases and its systemic effect this time focusing on cardiovascular disease. In this study high bacterial load and the consequence of gingival disease and subsequently increased levels of systemic inflammation were directly linked to the production of atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid arteries in otherwise healthy human study subjects.
Other studies have shown casual links to tooth loss and the increased risk of developing dementia and decreases in cognitive function. Additionally there have been studies that have actually found oral bacteria in the synovial fluids of joints possibly indicating a relationship between arthritis failed joint prosthesis and mouth borne pathogens.
Common sense tells us that children with inadequate oral hygiene will have a greater risk and propensity of developing dental caries and gum disease which can certainly impact school attendance and subsequent academic performance.
In addition to the traditional methods of maintaining teeth and gums i.e. brushing flossing and limiting sugar intake there are supplemental options that can help support overall oral health.
As pathogenic bacteria are the primary culprits of many diseases of the mouth it only stands to reason that supplementing with beneficial bacteria or probiotics would make sense and indeed it does have a beneficial impact according to current research.
The mouth is our gateway to the gut with the gut being a major component of our immune system. Thus the importance and health of the mouth's resident bacterial population requires us to acknowledge its significance in overall human health as it may remind us in not so subtle ways.
by Michael Fuhrman D.C.