In recent years, researchers have become interested in the potential link between oral health and other health conditions. Dental disease has been tentatively correlated with health concerns such as heart disease and serious infections. However, the jury is still out on whether periodontal disease actually causes other conditions, or if the correlation is caused by shared risk factors.
How could my teeth cause disease in my body?
People with ongoing dental disease often have deep periodontal pockets that harbor large amounts of bacteria. The concern is that this bacteria is getting into the bloodstream and causing inflammation in the heart and other organs. This could impact cardiovascular health by leading to artery hardening and other complications.
While bacterial leakage into the bloodstream is possible, it is unclear whether or not it actually causes cardiovascular disease. Often lifestyles that increase the risk for periodontal diseases, such as smoking and poor diet, also increase your risk for heart problems. Thus, it is difficult for scientists to determine with certainty whether dental decay itself is causing further health issues or if factors that lead to decay also cause other diseases.
Are there any known health issues related to dental health?
Patients with a history of endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the tissue surrounding the heart, or those who have had joint replacements are at a greater risk of developing infections from dental issues. Doctors have treated serious infections in these patients that were determined to have originated from bacteria in the mouth.
For these patients, even a simple cleaning risks dislodging bacteria and providing entry to the bloodstream through any abrasion to the gums. For people at risk of this complication, it is common for dentists to prescribe a strong dose of antibiotics before any dental procedure. The antibiotic prevents mouth bacteria from taking hold in the bloodstream.
How does overall health impact dental health?
Eating well, avoiding smoking, and practicing good hygiene benefit both your physical and dental health. While most physical conditions will not directly impact your teeth, anything that impacts your brushing and flossing ability can result in long term effects in the mouth.
Aging patients commonly lose manual dexterity and may have more difficulty with oral hygiene as they get older. Tools like flossing aids and daily fluoride rinses can aid in keeping teeth free of bacterial buildup. Patients with cognitive disorders or age-related cognitive decline or dementia are often at greater risk for developing periodontal disease. This is due to them being less likely to maintain daily dental hygiene schedules. In these cases, caretakers must carefully keep track of brushing and flossing activities and aid in dental hygiene when necessary.
Can specific diseases cause oral health problems?
Some diseases and medications can increase the risk of certain dental issues or complications during dental procedures. For example, diabetes does not usually impact general dental health. However, it often leads to slower healing times when patients have a procedure that impacts the gums or bone. Additionally, patients taking medications for osteoporosis may also experience abnormal bone healing that can lead to long term complications. While these conditions should not impact dental care like cleanings or fillings, other common procedures may be impacted. In these situations, it is critical that patients consult carefully with their physician and dentist while planning any sort of dental surgery.
Patients with or at risk for HIV should be aware of the potential for mucosal lesions. These lesions occur primarily on the gums of HIV positive patients.
Healthy teeth support a healthy life
While there may not be a direct link between dental health and physical health, taking care of your teeth supports your overall health. Regular dental hygiene, avoiding sugary foods, and staying away from cigarettes keeps teeth strong and reduces your risk for other disorders.
Hidden Valley Dentistry provides excellent dental care to the Roanoke, VA area. Dr. James and Dr. Deyerle have over 50 years of combined dental experience, and our practice has been well-respected throughout the community for decades. Each member of our kind and welcoming staff strives to continue making our community smile even brighter! Schedule a dental appointment with us, and we’ll bring your smile to life.