Oral health is about so much more than just the health of the mouth, teeth, and gums. Because the mouth is a primary entryway into the body, poor oral health can have negative consequences for the entire body. Teeth that ache, gums that bleed, and breath that smells bad are all indicators of poor oral health. Bacteria from the mouth can easily get into the bloodstream and cause infection and inflammation wherever it spreads. Here are some common and serious health problems caused by bad oral health:
1. Cardiovascular Disease
Having poor oral health puts a person at risk for heart disease. If the gums are inflamed due to the bacteria that causes periodontal disease, that same bacteria can actually get into the bloodstream causing the arteries to build up plaque and harden. This hardening of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, and it is very serious. It leads to blood flow problems and heart blockages, and it increases the likelihood of having a heart attack. The damaging impact on the arteries and blood vessels can lead to hypertension and increase the risk for strokes. Endocarditis can also develop, which is an often fatal condition that occurs when the lining of the heart becomes infected.
2. Respiratory Infections
The respiratory system can suffer as a result of poor oral health. Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can be breathed into the lungs or travel there through the bloodstream. Once there the bacteria can lead to respiratory infections, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and even COPD.
Not only are diabetics already more susceptible to infection such as infected gums that lead to periodontal disease, but periodontal disease can in turn make diabetes more difficult to control. Symptoms can worsen as blood sugar levels go haywire because of gum disease. It is especially important for diabetics to take good care of their oral health to prevent complications with their disease. Because gum disease can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels, a person with poor oral health is at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
There is a link between poor oral health and problems with infertility in women. Gum disease can lead to various overall health issues that can make it more difficult for a woman to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy. It can actually take longer for a woman with poor oral health to get pregnant than it would for a woman who has good dental health.
Obviously, poor oral health practices such as smoking or using tobacco products can lead to oral and throat cancers, but other types of cancer have also been linked to gum disease. Risk for kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers is much higher for people who have poor oral health.