Many of the negative and unhealthy consequences of poor oral hygiene habits make themselves known pretty quickly and clearly. Cavities, tooth decay, painful or bleeding gums, and bad breath are just a few of the ways our mouths tell us that we are not doing a good job keeping our teeth and gums in good shape. But as bad as these problems are, they may not be the worst things to flow directly from oral health issues. Many such problems – gum disease in particular – have been liked to even more serious conditions and diseases, some of which can be life-threatening.
Here are just a few ways that unhealthy teeth and gums can lead directly to potentially catastrophic health problems:
Multiple studies have suggested a strong link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically:
- A 2010 study by New York University researchers found that gum disease at age 70 was strongly associated with lower scores for cognitive function and that those study participants who had gum inflammation were nine times more likely to have a lower range score on the “digit symbol test” (DST).
- In 2013, British researchers discovered that a bacterium usually associated with chronic gum disease – Porphyromonas gingivalis – was present in brain samples from people with Alzheimer’s disease but not in the samples from the brains of people who did not have the condition. The researchers concluded that the bacteria could leave the mouth and arrive in the brain through the bloodstream, causing damage to the functional areas of the brain related to memory.
The gum disease gingivitis, commonly and correctly associated with bad breath, is the precursor to the more severe condition known as periodontitis. In 2007, researchers from Harvard found that men with a history of this condition had a 64% higher risk of pancreatic cancer compared with men who had never had gum disease.
In 2008, researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK and the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, found that people with poor dental hygiene that led to bleeding and inflamed gums significantly increased their risk of heart disease. This is because the bacteria in the mouth that cause gum disease can enter the bloodstream and stick to platelets. These platelets can then become blood clots which then interrupt the flow of blood to the heart and trigger a heart attack.
The link between oral health problems and serious health conditions elsewhere is a reminder that our bodies are composed of intricate and interconnected systems. That is the fundamental concept behind the holistic dentistry we practice at Assure A Smile.
It is why we work with our patients to help them develop healthy and natural oral hygiene habits as part of an overall wellness strategy and comprehensive healthcare approach.
To learn more about the importance of oral health and how to develop healthier habits for a better you, please contact Assure a Smile today at 305-274-0047 to schedule an appointment.