Dental Hygiene: How Oral Health Can Predict a Medical Crisis

Most people equate dental hygiene with a trip to the dentist every so often for a quick checkup. The unfortunate reality of it is that people don’t realize that oral health directly correlates with overall health. In fact, the mouth can be like a magic crystal ball, predicting health problems that have yet to materialize.

Poor Dental Hygiene Leads to Periodontal Disease

More than 700 strains of bacteria are found in human mouths, according to research printed in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Eerier still, is how fast they reproduce. It’s believed that the average person has a bacteria count equal to the earth’s entire population. That means there are literally billions of bacteria in there and perhaps even more in people with poor dental hygiene. A lot of the bacteria is good and it can help fend of cavities or digest food. Some, however, can wrack havoc in a mouth, causing decay and disease. This begins as bleeding or sore gums, which most people know as gingivitis. As it develops further, it becomes a more serious condition called periodontal disease. Regular cleanings and checkups can help fend off periodontal disease, but once it’s present, it can signal danger in other parts of the body.

Periodontal Disease is Linked to Heart Disease

There are several studies that investigate the link between heart disease and periodontal disease. Some indicate that those with perio disease are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those with a healthy mouth. Presently, there are two prevailing theories as to why this happens. The first is that perio disease leads to inflammation throughout the body, not just inflammation of the tissues inside the mouth. Researchers have also found the same plaque that forms on teeth collects inside arteries. This is clear evidence that the plaque can enter the blood stream, which supports the first theory. However, when this plaque builds inside arteries, it leads to heart attacks and strokes.

Expectant Mothers May Deliver Early if They Have Gum Disease

Research from the University of North Carolina (UNC) indicates that babies born to mothers with gum disease are twice as likely to be born pre-term. Of course, this presents a whole new set of risks for both baby and mother, but the study also concluded that the babies are far more-likely to have low birth-weights as well. This isn’t an isolated study, either. Some dental insurance companies are actually picking up the tab for an extra teeth cleaning when a woman is expecting, just to help negate this risk.

Those With Periodontal Disease are More-Likely to Be Diabetic

There are numerous studies that connect diabetes and poor dental hygiene as well. A fact sheet put out by the American Dental Hygienists Association notes that 95% of people diagnosed with diabetes also have periodontal disease. Additional research suggests that this, like heart disease, may be the result of inflammation.

Several Other Conditions are Associated with Poor Oral Health

It doesn’t stop with pregnancy-related issues, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Scientists have been trying to uncover how things like respiratory disease, cancer, and osteoporosis are related as well. Although we may not understand exactly how or why these things are linked to oral health, the evidence clearly shows that the whole body is affected by what happens inside the mouth. The good news is that a gun disease diagnosis is not a death sentence, and even if these conditions are already present, changing some habits can help. One study concluded that working to restore oral health could prevent these conditions from occurring, reverse them, or at least reduce how taxed the body becomes by the disorders when they’re already present.