Maintaining good oral hygiene is an important aspect of being healthy. After all, most people know that if they don’t brush and floss regularly, they have an increased risk of developing cavities and gum disease. What not everyone realizes, however, is that poor dental hygiene is also related to other conditions.
By learning about the diseases related to poor dental hygiene, you may find the motivation you need to prioritize your oral health.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
There are connections between dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and gum disease. However, experts are still unsure why the two are connected. The link between these two is still being extensively studied.
In the meantime, the leading theory is that the gums repeatedly expose the brain to harmful agents like bacteria. The bacteria lead to immune responses, causing nerve cell death. That death of nerve cells can cause memory loss.
Multiple studies show a connection between cancer and gum disease, and the cancer isn’t always limited to the mouth. The two types of cancer with the largest documented connections are oropharyngeal and pancreatic cancer.
At the moment, experts are just aware of a correlation between these types of cancer and gum disease. There still isn’t scientific proof as to why this connection exists. As such, you should be aware that it’s a potential risk, but it doesn’t require the same level of concern as some of the other conditions on this list.
One of the most commonly mentioned diseases related to oral health is cardiovascular disease. The connection comes from the fact that plaque travels from the mouth to your blood vessels, heart, and arteries. Once in the blood vessels, the plaque will build up. That build-up causes blood clots and clogged arteries.
The connection between oral health and diabetes starts with periodontal disease-causing inflammation in the mouth. That inflammation weakens your body’s ability to process sugars and use insulin in the blood. Essentially, inflammation limits the ability of the body to turn sugar into energy using insulin. When the insulin isn’t used properly, blood sugar levels increase.
There is also research showing that people with gum disease have difficulties in keeping their blood sugar levels stable.
It’s also worth noting that diabetes reduces your resistance to infection. That includes reduced bacterial or viral resistance in the mouth, leading to a higher risk of gum disease. It also means that diabetes increases the risk of more severe levels of gum disease.
Endocarditis is a heart-related condition linked to oral health. Endocarditis occurs when bacteria get into the bloodstream and make their way to the heart, where they attach. That bacteria can come from your mouth, especially if you have poor oral hygiene.
Once in the heart, the bacteria infect its inner lining as well as its chambers and valves. If patients with endocarditis don’t receive immediate treatment, the condition can be fatal.
Those with periodontal disease have a higher risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction. This likely occurs because the bacteria from the periodontal disease travel through the bloodstream. They can then inflame blood vessels, preventing the flow of blood to the genitals.
Infertility in Women
According to research from about a decade ago, gum disease may increase the risk of infertility in women. The proposed connection is that gum disease causes various health issues that can make it harder to conceive. The same research found that women who have poor oral health may require more time to get pregnant.
Some oral problems are more common among those who have either HIV or AIDs. These include mucosal lesions, which can be painful.
Both periodontal disease and osteoporosis involve patients losing their bone tissue. The difference between these conditions is where bone loss occurs. In the case of gum disease, bone loss primarily affects the jawbone and teeth. In the case of osteoporosis, bone loss primarily happens in the back, wrist, and hip.
This is another of the potential connections that still needs more research. Current clinical studies hope to show that the inflammation related to periodontal disease impacts bones throughout the entire body. Currently, we know that it affects the teeth and jawbone.
Another important note is that some of the medicines prescribed for treating osteoporosis have a risk of damaging the jawbone. However, that risk tends to be minimal.
Gum disease and poor oral hygiene can potentially increase your risk of pneumonia. This comes from the potential for the bacteria in your mouth to move into your lungs.
This connection means that poor dental health can also cause other respiratory conditions in addition to pneumonia. Those who already experience respiratory problems also have a risk of gum disease aggravating those problems.
Rheumatoid arthritis may be linked to poor dental hygiene, but the connection between these conditions needs to be studied further. This is another connection that may result from inflammation. Experts believe that the bacteria linked to gum disease can worsen inflammation throughout the body. Given how inflammation affects rheumatoid arthritis, it can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition.
Although pregnancy is not a disease, there are also some crucial connections between pregnancy and oral health. Many of these have already been researched, so the science behind this link is further along.
The main takeaway regarding this connection is that pregnancy causes hormonal fluctuations in your body chemistry. Those fluctuations can sometimes cause periodontal disease. Once that periodontal disease develops, the resulting bacteria and plaque can get into the bloodstream.
Pregnancy complications may occur once the bacteria affects the fetus. As a result, gum disease in the mother can lead to low birth weights, infections, and premature births in their newborns.
What to Do About It
The best way to prevent your oral health from causing or worsening any of these conditions is to take care of your oral hygiene. Visit Dr. Sharma regularly and make sure to brush your teeth and floss every day. Moreover, pay extra attention to your oral health if you have one of the above conditions. You can learn more by scheduling an appointment with the best dentist in Lincoln Park.