Since childhood, or at least since the first visit to the dentist, it has been ingrained in our minds how important it is to keep our teeth and gums healthy. We should be brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, flossing, and using mouthwash to get all the bacteria and excess food out.
But just how important is it?
One of the leading dental issues in the world is gum disease, which has been linked to numerous other problems. If you cannot maintain a healthy mouth or find a dentist who will take care of your teeth, then you put yourself at risk for more serious issues than simple cavities.
Here are just a few examples:
- Heart Disease
One of the leading causes of death in America, heart disease, has been linked to gum disease and poor oral health.
When gums become inflamed and then infected, the bacteria from the infection can easily enter the bloodstream and gain easy access to the heart. From there, the heart becomes far more susceptible to heart attacks when the bacteria latches to fatty spots in the blood vessels.
The bacteria can also cause infections within the heart, such as endocarditis, which infects the heart’s inner lining. All of these heart complications can stem from gum disease.
Diabetics are more prone to infections, which is what gum disease is. Gum disease can also cause a lot of issues with maintaining proper blood sugar levels.
As diabetics often have difficulty with blood sugar control, they are inherently more likely to develop gum disease than the average person. However, if you are diabetic, it is simply another reason to maintain good blood sugar control – if you can keep that up, you are no more at risk for gum disease than anyone else.
Furthermore, as diabetes can widen blood vessels, this also can put you at risk for gum disease. It slows the carrying of bacteria away from the mouth, leading to an increased risk of infection. Simply put, diabetics have a higher risk of developing gum disease, but gum disease is also a potential indicator of diabetes.
Obviously, poor oral health and gum disease can lead to throat and oral cancers, but these are not the only kinds of cancer for which gum disease can put you at risk.
Studies have shown that people with severe gum disease have a higher chance of developing kidney cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. All of these can be highly dangerous, as of course any cancer can be, but you would not normally anticipate these specific kinds to be related to gum disease.
The research conducted has yet to support any evidence of a link between gum disease and breast cancer or prostate cancer, but of course any kind of inflammation of infection (such as that caused by gum disease) can automatically increase your risk of the deadly disease.
- Kidney Disease
As gum disease is an infection, it weakens your immune system. This can lead to all sorts of inflammation and infections, including incredibly dangerous kidney disease.
Kidney disease can be combatted, of course, but it can also be fatal if not taken care of swiftly. Gum disease allows bacteria and infections to readily enter the bloodstream, including the kidneys. From there, the kidneys become weaker, along with even your bones, heart, and blood pressure. Essentially, gum disease can lead to far more fatal kidney problems.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
People with rheumatoid arthritis have a nearly 8 times higher chance of developing gum disease than the average patient. The main bacterium that causes gum disease is linked to severe rheumatoid arthritis. Whatever way you spin it, rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease are inexplicably linked.
The good news, though, is that research has also shown that improving one may also improve the other, so it might not be the end of the world.
Countless health problems have been linked to gum disease. Though the nature of the link is not always clear, hopefully what is now clear is exactly how important your oral health truly is. When you take care of your teeth, you help take care of your whole body.