During American Heart Month in February, every aspect of cardiovascular health is in focus. From clogged arteries to high blood pressure, people should be aware of the steps they can take to reduce or eliminate unhealthy conditions that could lead to a stroke or heart attack. Scheduling an appointment with the dentist is one of those steps.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), bacteria that enters the mouth through tooth decay or gum disease can spread throughout the body. In addition to having a well-known link to diabetes, dental problems may be an indication of nutritional deficiencies, blood disorders, impaired immunity and bacterial pneumonia.
Periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease, also increases the risk of a pregnant woman delivering a baby prematurely or a full-term baby that has a low birth weight.
A number of research studies indicate that people should consider the whole body when they are having dental pain because it could be an indication of more serious health concerns.
Diabetes and gum disease
For people who are at the greatest risk of gum disease – those who are 40 or older – regular exams are especially important for those with diabetes. When gingivitis, the most common form of gum disease, evolves into the more serious periodontitis, there is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and exacerbating an existing case. While this form of diabetes can be regulated with a healthy diet and medication, people with advanced gum disease have to monitor their sugar intake to make sure it doesn’t create unhealthy glucose levels.
In addition, high sugar levels compromise one’s immune system and the ability to fight infections, including oral disease. Conditions that include tooth sensitivity and decay, dry mouth and delayed healing of mouth sores may result.
Additional health issues
Another health concern related to dental care is respiratory illness. When high levels of bacteria are allowed to fester in the mouth, they can travel down the throat and into the lungs and create conditions that make breathing difficult. In the worst case scenario, illnesses such as pneumonia may result.
To keep dental disease from causing bad health in other parts of the body, the ADA states that prevention is key. Good hygiene – including brushing teeth a minimum of twice and flossing once daily, as well as regular check-ups – is important to maintain good dental health and identify problems in the early stages. People should keep their dentists informed of existing health conditions to help devise treatments that will be most beneficial.
Heart health debate
The most hotly debated link between dental problems and overall health remains the one regarding cardiovascular conditions such as clogged arteries, which some researchers believe may worsen from chronic inflammation that begins in the mouth. For instance, the American Academy of Periodontology contends that people with periodontitis are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease.
In 2012, the American Heart Association (AHA) announced that studies correlating swelled, diseased gums and clogged arteries are inconclusive, as is the link between dental health and heart disease.
However, the AHA also stated that periodontal and heart diseases have similar risk factors such as smoking, age and diabetes. The association continues to advise people to take care of their dental health as part of a heart-healthy regimen, pointing out that regular dental care reduces the risk of infections that may affect the heart.
Just as important, a heart-healthy diet can also include plenty of calcium for bone and teeth strength. Taking a dietary supplement such as OmegaKrill from Dr. Newton’s Naturals promotes bone health and joint comfort and maintains healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.