Years back, we've been treating oral hygiene singularly; all things related to our oral health stayed in our mouth (sort to speak) and we've never thought to look deeper into the disease potentials that may prove links between our body and mouth.
However, recent years have brought about various concerns that have triggered scientists' curiosity to explore this area and give it structure. At the first glance, our mouth has nothing to do with the rest of our bodily functions, i.e. potential illnesses that we may pick up. Unfortunately, research shows the contrary.
Bacteria stored in our mouth build up on teeth and consequently make gums prone to infection. The gums become inflamed the moment immune system moves in to attack the infection. Unless the infection is brought under control, chemicals released through inflammation eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold teeth in place. The result is periodontitis, i.e. a severe gum disease. The inflammation, if not treated properly, can also cause problems in the rest of the body.
Oral Health and DiabetesThe relationship between periodontitis and diabetes may be the strongest of all the connections between the body and mouth. The body's ability to control blood sugar is weakened by inflammation that starts in the mouth, which causes people with diabetes to experience difficulties in processing sugar; in a situation like this, insulin, the hormone that converts sugar into energy is lacking, potentially causing severe health consequences.
See Also: Common Oral Health Problems: What You Need To Know
Oral Health and Heart DiseaseIt is believed that gum disease and heart disease often go hand in hand even though the reasons behind this connection are not fully understood. Up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66% of people with no heart disease. Several risk factors such as smoking, excess weight and unhealthy diet are what often links the two conditions. There are suspicions that the risk of heart disease is increased by periodontitis.
According to research, "inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels". With this in mind, it is valid to conclude that mouth inflammation increases the risk of heart attack in a number of ways. "There's also a greater risk that fatty plaque will break off the wall of a blood vessel and travel to the heart or the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke", it is explained.
With inflamed blood vessels, blood is largely blocked from travelling between the heart and the rest of the body, causing high blood pressure.
Oral Health and PregnancyPrematurely born babies often suffer significant health problems, including heart conditions, lung conditions and learning disorders. Even though there are plenty of factors that are potentially to blame for premature or low birth weight deliveries, researchers are exploring the role of gum disease in this predicament. Judging by the research, inflammation and infection seem to interfere with a fetus's development in the womb. In a combination with hormonal changes during pregnancy, this can increase a woman's risk of catching periodontitis. This is why experts are advising women that are planning their pregnancy or are already pregnant to have checkups in order to identify whether or not they are at risk. Further, orthodontists are advising the use of adult braces as it successfully treats dental malocclusions and prevents infection development in time.
See More: Important Dental Care Tips for a Lifetime of Healthy Teeth
Oral Health and OsteoporosisBone loss is the major link between osteoporosis and periodontitis. However, the link between the two is controversial. While gum disease attacks the jawbone, osteoporosis affects the long bones in the arms and legs; further, it is argued that periodontitis is more common among men whereas osteoporosis mainly affects women.
Some studies suggest that women with osteoporosis have gum disease more often than those who do not, even though a link has not been well established.
Researchers are still testing their theory of mouth inflammation weakening bones in the body and affecting our bodily functions at large.