Have you seen news stories about poor oral health being linked to heart disease and diabetes? These headlines undoubtedly grab your attention, but the truth is a little more complicated. More and more scientific studies are showing a correlation between oral health and overall health, but despite all of this research, scientists still aren’t exactly sure what that link is. Here’s what we do know.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Heart Health
In recent years, medical science has gained a better understanding of the body’s inflammatory process and, specifically, its impact on our health. Evidence is mounting that inflammation is the underlying cause of a number of common diseases. It’s speculated that the link between oral health and heart disease has to do with inflammation.
One of the consequences of poor oral hygiene is gum disease, which causes painful gums that are swollen, red, and bleed easily—in other words, the gums become inflamed. We now believe that this inflammation in the gums can cause the body to be in a constant state of inflammation. Not only is systemic inflammation a predictor of heart disease, it also impacts your heart health by increasing your blood pressure. Bloodstream infections that begin in the mouth can damage the heart valves and even cause thickening of the carotid arteries.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Diabetes
Gum disease and diabetes are also linked. If you have diabetes, the high levels of glucose in your bloodstream can make it more difficult for your body to fight infection. This leaves you at higher risk for developing gum disease. High glucose levels also cause oral bacteria to flourish. This means that when you have diabetes, you have both increased levels of bacteria in your mouth and a decreased ability to fight it off.
Treating gum disease with a simple scaling and root planing procedure can help improve blood sugar control in patients who have diabetes and even reduce blood sugar levels in patients who don’t have diabetes. In fact, the results of scaling and root planing are often immediate.
Your Teeth and Your Health
Will your teeth predict heart disease and diabetes? Not exactly. Your oral health is one of many factors that determines your risk for these conditions. Not every patient who has gum disease will end up with cardiovascular issues or diabetes.
Still, your oral health gives us important insight into the health of the rest of your body. Inflammation in the gums can be a sign that you have systemic inflammation. Frequent cavities and gum disease may be a sign of high blood glucose. With regular dental evaluations and cleanings, we can keep your teeth and gums healthy and identify warning signs of serious health issues.
Make an Appointment to Assess Your Oral Health
Seeing the dentist every six months for comprehensive oral evaluations should be a part of your overall wellness routine. To schedule an appointment at Metrowest Prosthodontics, contact us today at 508-620-6622 .