The Mouth & Body Connection
You’ve probably heard of the mind-body connection. Basically, it states that your psychological well-being and your physical health are closely linked. So, if you’re prone to stress, for example, you can elevate your blood pressure and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Well scientists are finally beginning to realize that your oral health plays a role in your physical health, as well (dentist have known this for years). Check out these headlines:
- Gum Disease Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke (AAP)
- Study Finds a Direct Association between Heart Disease and Periodontal Bacteria (NIDCR)
- Treatment of Gum Disease May Lower Blood Sugar Levels in Type 2 Diabetes (Science Daily)
- First Oral Bacteria Found Linking a Mother and Her Stillborn Baby (Science Daily)
- Presence of Gum Disease May Help Dentists and Physicians Identify Those at Increased Risk for Cardiovascular Disease (Columbia University)
Sounds intense, right? It should. Your oral health is a serious matter, and preventing gum disease may be the key to a healthier you in the future. So, what is gum disease anyway? Gum disease is a chronic infection that typically stems from poor oral hygiene (i.e. not flossing, avoiding dental visits, etc.). It’s hard to imagine that an infection in your gums can have such a dramatic impact on things like the heart, the lungs, bones, blood-sugar levels, and fetal development, but it does. Here’s how: Bacteria from your gums can affect your body in four ways:
1. Circulatory System – bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums and travel to other parts of the body. As it travels, it can cause secondary infections or contribute to diseases already in progress.
2. Immune System – the body’s inflammatory response to gum disease can trigger other inflammatory diseases (heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure) and cause arteries to swell.
3. Respiratory System – the bacteria from gum disease adheres to saliva droplets that you inhale. You can actually breathe-in the bacteria every time you inhale. This can cause pulmonary infections and respiratory problems.
4. Blood Sugar – gum disease increases blood-sugar levels and makes diabetes harder to control.
The bottom line? You can eat right, work out every day, and visit your doctor regularly, but if you neglect your oral health, you’re essentially shooting yourself in the foot. Visit your dentist regularly and prevent gum disease from sabotaging your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Together, you, your dentist, and your physician can help prevent systemic illnesses from spiraling out of control.