At our downtown Portland dental office, Dr. Bajuscak often sees patients not giving their oral health the same emphasis as other important lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise. Often when people talk about getting healthier, they don’t think about how their oral health impacts their overall health.
For a patient that wants to improve their heart health, cutting back on fatty foods high in cholesterol makes far more sense than making sure they brush twice a day and floss daily. However, research has shown compelling links that connect our oral health to heart health in ways just as compelling as diet.
Our mouths contain a lot of bacteria. While most of this bacteria are healthy and beneficial to our bodies, certain bad bacteria have a significant impact on inflammation and our ability to fight off infection. When harmful bacteria travel from the mouth to other areas of the body, such as the heart, it contributes to the type of inflammation most responsible for the development of systemic disease.
Let’s take a look a few of the diseases research has most closely linked to poor oral health.
Cardiovascular disease ranks as the leading cause of death in the U.S. Over 70 million Americans receive a diagnosis of at least one of the many forms of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, arterial disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.
Oral hygiene and cardiovascular disease have been strongly linked in research. In fact, the American Heart Association considers tooth decay and gum disease to be risk factors for heart disease. One recent study published in the journal Odontology reported that poor oral hygiene can carry up to a 90 percent increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
With the mouth acting like a gateway to the lungs, it’s not surprising that oral bacteria can easily move to the respiratory system. Studies conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology has found that aspirated oral bacteria frequently contributes to the development of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
Not only does oral bacteria increase the risk for developing respiratory problems, studies have found poor oral health can also contribute to making symptoms of these types of disease even worse.
Another disease caused by oral bacteria that increases the risk for heart attack, endocarditis is a significant risk of our health. Marked by the hardening and inflammation of the walls of the heart, endocarditis causes a variety of symptoms that all worsen over time.
If left untreated, endocarditis requires a potentially life-threatening surgery to treat. That makes the result of a recent study linking poor oral hygiene to endocarditis just one more reason why it’s important to brush and floss daily.
Perhaps no disease better encapsulates the relationship between oral and overall health as diabetes. That’s because diabetes patients who have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels have a significant risk for developing gum disease, an oral infection. Conversely, patients with diabetes have a hard time fighting off infections. Diabetes patients dealing with an infection also have a hard time managing their blood sugar levels.
This creates a symbiotic relationship between the two diseases – Patient with uncontrolled blood sugar levels are more likely to develop gum disease. Patients with gum disease are more likely to have trouble managing their blood sugar levels – where one disease contributes to the other.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, men with gum disease have a 49 percent higher risk for developing kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers.
These numbers alone should perfectly encapsulate just how important the health of our teeth and gums is to our overall health.
If you have any questions about how your oral health impacts your overall health, be sure to ask any member of our team during your next visit to our downtown Portland dental office.