Brushing twice a day can do more than just prevent halitosis. Research has shown that there exists a ‘mouth-body connection’ which links your oral health with your systemic health. If you have any of the five conditions listed below, it may be time to pay your dentist another visit.
There’s a strong link between dental health and diabetes. Bacterial build up on your teeth can make the gums more susceptible to infection. They become inflamed and in worst cases, can lead to a condition called periodontitis. This inflammation in the gums weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar. It hinders your ability to utilize insulin, a hormone diabetics already lack. Worse yet, as blood sugar levels increase, it creates favourable conditions for infections to grow, including gum disease. By preventing one condition you’ll help prevent the other.
2. Heart Disease
Your teeth and your heart may not seem very connected, but they are–by the oral pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. This bacteria creates an inflammation of the gums. When immune cells arrive, it attaches to them with its long, finger-link projections and makes them ‘sticky’. Immune cells soon collect in blood vessels with other cells, leading to atherosclerosis (a condition where the artery wall thickens from accumulating white blood cells). This can then lead to various heart conditions including strokes, heart attacks, or claudication–a difficulty in walking often accompanied by pain or discomfort in the legs.
3. Early Childhood Caries
A mother’s health during pregnancy is directly linked to the health of the fetus. It’s no surprise then that poor oral hygiene of the mother can impact that of the child. Gum disease during pregnancy can increase your child’s risk of early childhood caries (ECC). ECC is a bacterial infection that can cause decaying or missing tooth surfaces in children under six and can be transmitted from the mother to the child during pregnancy.
4. Lung Conditions
Lung problems, such pneumonia or bronchitis, can be aggravated by gum disease. Studies have shown, especially in elderly populations, that gum health equals lung health. When you inhale, bacteria from a gum infection can travel into the lungs and cause respiratory infections. The inflammation caused by periodontitis can also trigger chemicals that worsen lung inflammation and other lung conditions.
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammation of the joints, a condition that causes incredible pain and a loss of function in the extremities. However, studies have shown that tooth loss from gum disease can increase your chances of developing RA. Furthermore, the severity of your periodontitis is predictive of the severity of RA. This is because the joints and the gums share similar tissues. Inflammation of one can lead to inflammation of the other.
As research on the mouth-body connection continues, there’s more and more evidence that the key to maintaining a healthy body is to also keep a healthy mouth. Flossing, brushing twice a day, and biannual dental check-ups are good habits that can greatly improve your health regimen.