Are your pearly whites not so white and less than pearly? Can your chompers chew through rope? The goal of good dental health isn’t to have perfect teeth — it’s to have strong and healthy teeth.
Your dental hygiene matters for your whole health. It’s more than a checklist item. If you scrub your teeth for 20 seconds without much thought, other than wanting fresh breath to smooch your sweetie, it’s time to rethink your dental hygiene routine.
Why the Office Lectures Are Right
Your dentist lectures you enough, and it makes sense that the mouth is the Cave of Wonders for bacteria — there are over 700 species of bacteria colonizing your teeth and mouth right now. That’s why proper flossing is important. Otherwise, bad dental habits lead to gingivitis, receding gums and sensitivity, also known as periodontal disease.
If that keeps up, you get advanced periodontitis, damaging your bones and increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes, among others. Increased risk like that basically equates to bigger risk for death. That’s why your doctor lectures you, too.
Periodontal disease affects hundreds of millions of people as the sixth most chronic condition globally, and one out of two adults in the United States have it. Now is the time — Learn more about how your dental health impacts your whole health, what you can do to fix your dental act and help your docs do their jobs.
Linking Dental Health With Cardiac Health
Periodontal disease is no longer something to get to eventually on the health checklist when you feel like it — not that it ever was for healthcare professionals — but it was the attitude taken by many patients. Cardiologists now recognize the direct link between cardiac health and dental disease as periodontal disease which is a significant risk factor for stroke, coronary arterial disease and peripheral arterial disease.
The root of the crisis is inflammation. If you’re serious about your heart health, get serious about your dental health before an oral surgeon pulls your teeth from the root like diseased weeds.
Unfortunately, gum disease has never been the traditional sort of risk factor to call home about, even though 46 percent of Americans deal with gum disease. In 2012, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a statement supporting the link between periodontal disease and cardiac health. Recent research portrays the link between dental health and cardiac health as a more causal one.
In May 2014, researchers presented a body of evidence suggesting periodontal disease does increase the risk for stroke at the annual American Society of Microbiology meeting. The study infected mice with four types of bacteria proven to cause periodontal disease. After six months, cholesterol levels and inflammation increased in the mice — revealing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The bacteria had traveled from mouth to other organs, including the kidney, lungs and liver.
The same bacteria linked with deep periodontal lesions were drawn to platelets and created small clots proven to cause issues when it comes to stroke. The connection to diabetes arises from the fact that many people only realize they have the condition thanks to the discovery of periodontal disease as the preceding risk factor — sometimes after the fact.
Gingivitis presents as a clear link to diabetes, but patients may look at the situation simply as “It’s just a risk factor, just blood — it’ll clear up.” Sadly, once periodontal disease is established, along with diabetes, as a diagnosis, the two diseases “feed” off each other.
Periodontal Bacteria in the Blood Linked to Alzheimer’s
The scary part of periodontal disease is when it turns advanced, bacteria in the mouth get into other areas of the body via the bloodstream. Again, inflammation becomes the connector between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Recent research links periodontal bacteria in the blood to AD as the bacteria travels to the brain and causes tissue deterioration characteristic of the disease.
Expecting Mothers Must Attend to Dental Health
The impact of dental health extends to a mother’s unborn child. Doctors regularly stress the importance of regular dental check-ups during pregnancy for that reason. Forty percent of pregnant women have periodontal disease, and good oral habits are especially important due to physiologic shifts common to the oral cavity during pregnancy. One study in the nineties connected maternal periodontal disease with preterm delivery.
Cigarette smokers and those without access to healthcare and food resources for proper nutrition may especially be at risk.
Good Dental Habits Important for Good Mental Health
People experience enough stress in their daily lives without being judged by the condition of their teeth and smile. Sometimes, these conditions are exasperated by family history of oral health issues and bad habits.
Unfortunately, people still judge others by appearance. One study revealed that given a choice between two equally qualified candidates, an interviewer would pick the one with better teeth. In another study, two out of five participants stated they wouldn’t pursue a second date if they observed misaligned or crooked teeth.
It’s easy to see how oral disease and bad habits contribute to unnecessary daily stress, going on to affect personal and professional lives. Good dental habits are important to maintain good mental health.
Periodontal disease may be considered “low-grade” by the scientific community, but the risk factors are detrimental to your whole health if you don’t pay attention to changing bad dental habits.
Listen to your dentist and your doctor: brush twice daily and floss regularly — thoroughly, at that. If you experience bleeding or tenderness now, don’t be afraid to bring it up and get treatment. Your whole health matters.