Just how can your mouth affect your body, to start you need to understand what happens in your mouth. Plaque and bacteria buildup on teeth, the longer the bacteria go undisturbed the more they multiply. When you eat or drink you feed them creating an acid-making both your teeth and gums susceptible to infection. The immune system intervenes to attack the bacterial infection to keep the gums from becoming inflamed and bleeding. If the infection is allowed to continue without disruption the inflammation continues.
Over time, the inflammation and the byproducts eat away at the teeth, gums, and bone structure. Dental disease is the result, cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis. In an early stage, it is completely reversible. Yes, I said cavities are a disease. In fact, cavities are the # 1 preventable childhood disease. This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about mouth health awareness.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, in its early stage 100% reversible if overlooked it progresses to the middle to late stages called periodontitis also known as gum disease.
Increased inflammation causes the gums to recede, creates deeper pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets trap plaque, bacteria, and food debris that eventually lead to infection and even abscesses. Advanced gum disease damages the bone that supports teeth and is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults.
Inflammation can also add to underlying problems in the rest of the body. Chronic inflammation in your mouth that causes bleeding, allows the bacteria in your mouth to travel in the blood to the rest of the body. Now you not only have inflammation in your mouth it has spread. Your immune system has to work harder and in more than one place in the body. So instead of having a large group of white blood cells fighting in one single location, it is forced to send fewer cells to multiple locations in the body. Allowing the bacteria to wreak havoc, multiply and spread.
Dental infections are silent; you do not feel them until they advance to a later stage. It can spread to the face, skull, bloodstream, heart, liver, and even kidneys. If you have bleeding gums, toothaches, fever, earache, or pain in your jaw or shoulders, you will need to see a professional, your physician, dentist, or periodontist for treatment as soon as possible, before you get a toothache or worse a systemic infection.
Oral Health Heart Disease and Diabetes
The relationship between Heart disease, diabetes, and periodontitis may be the strongest of all the connections between the mouth and body. Inflammation that starts in the mouth seems to weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar. People with diabetes have trouble processing sugar because of a lack of insulin. Why does this matter? Insulin is one of the essential hormones produced by the pancreas that converts sugar into energy and controls the glucose levels in our bodies.
Periodontal disease further complicates diabetes because the inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin properly, says the American Academy of Periodontology. To further complicate matters, diabetes and periodontitis have a co-dependent relationship. Blood sugar levels that are high provide the ideal conditions for infections to grow, including viral, bacterial, and gum infections. This is a two-way gum disease-diabetes relationship that can be used in your favor: by managing one you can help bring the other under control.
Heart disease let’s explore the connection to the mouth a little more in-depth.
People with gum disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or another serious cardiovascular event. There may not be a direct connection. The bacteria that live in your mouth when you have gum disease can cross into your bloodstream, enter the heart, and directly infect the heart valves.
That is why people with a mitral valve prolapse or artificial joint replacement need to take an antibiotic before their dental appointment. The bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and accumulate on the valve causing damage. The loading dose of antibiotics kills the bacteria before it they have a chance to do harm.
Many people with heart disease have healthy gums, and not everyone with gum disease develops heart problems. However, one study found gum disease increases a person’s risk of heart disease by about 20 percent, and shared risk factors, such as smoking or an unhealthy diet, are also associated. The more risk factors the higher the chance. There’s a growing suspicion that gum disease may be an independent risk factor for heart disease.
In 2014, researchers looked at people who had both gum disease and heart disease. They discovered that people who had received care for their gum disease had cardiovascular care costs that were 10 to 40 percent lower than people who didn’t get proper oral care.
The American Dental Association and American Heart Association have acknowledged the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease because inflammation in the gums and bacteria may eventually lead to the narrowing of important arteries.
There’s no proof that treating gum disease will prevent cardiovascular disease or its complications. But the connection is compelling enough that many dentists and doctors say it’s another reason to be mindful about preventing gum disease.
Gum disease and oral health may be related to other conditions, as well, below are a few:
- A Trusted Source suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of certain forms of cancer, such as kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers.
- Respiratory disease: Bacteria in the mouth can move to the lungs and cause infections such as aspiration pneumonia. This is more common for people with periodontal disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Pregnant women are also at increased risk of gum disease due to hormonal changes and increased blood flow.
There are also some conditions that may increase your risk of developing gum disease. Studies indicate that people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing gum disease. This is due to increased inflammation and a greater risk of infections in general. The risk lowers if you manage your diabetes.
Signs of gum disease
Any of these signs can be a clue that you have periodontal disease:
- swollen, red, or tender gums
- gums that bleed easily
- persistent bad breath
- highly sensitive teeth
- receding gums
- pain with chewing
- pus between the teeth and gums
- the buildup of hard brown deposits along the gum line
- loose teeth or teeth that are shifting
- changes in the way dental appliances fit.
Just because you have one or several of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have gum disease. Your dentist will make a formal diagnosis by reviewing the severity and duration of your symptoms.
During your visit, they may:
- Evaluate your teeth and review your medical history.
- evaluate your gums for signs of inflammation and plaque buildup
- take X-rays of underlying jawbone to look for bone loss
- examine sensitive teeth for receding gums
- Measure your gums with a Periodontal Probe (a tiny ruler) to check the pocket depth
There are many healthy lifestyle habits you can choose to maintain good oral hygiene and reduce your risk of diseases.
- Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice per day to disrupt the plaque and bacteria
- Ask your dentist to demonstrate the correct technique for brushing.
- Floss or use a water flosser between your teeth and gums at least once per day.
- Stop smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Drink more water.
- Eat a diet high in vegetables, high-fiber foods, fruits low in sugar, and vegetable-based proteins.
- Be mindful of early signs of gum disease, such as bleeding gums and bad breath.
- Maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, especially if you have diabetes.
- See a dentist consistently for checkups. Let your dentist know if you have any of these symptoms.
Daily habits and consistent home care can prevent and even reverse the early stages of gum disease, known as gingivitis. If your dental professional says you have gingivitis, ask where and have them show you what tools they would recommend and the proper technique of how to use them. You can have it in on one tooth or the whole mouth. I am seeing gingivitis on the front six teeth with the extended mask-wearing in hundreds of patients. Many people don’t spend enough time or use the proper technique when brushing (we recommend two minutes two times a day brushing the teeth, gums, and tongue).
Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. The gums become more inflamed around the tooth, creating a pocket that pocket gradually gets deeper and harder for you to clean. Eventually, the infection and inflammation can cause the tooth to loosen and abscess or possibly fall out depending on how long you ignore the signs and symptoms. The majority of people are indifferent about mouth health until they have pain. This is what creates the reality that dentistry is expensive. If you never changed the oil in your car and your engine freezes it would be expensive to fix would it not. Going to the dentist is equivalent to the maintenance you would have done on your car to keep it in good running condition.
What’s the approach?
Research shows some connections between gum disease and other diseases in the body. Bacteria buildup and inflammation in the oral cavity eventually contribute to an imbalance in sugar levels in the body and leads to a number of other symptoms such as bleeding gums, narrowing, and blockage of blood vessels. More research is needed to better understand this connection. Yet it is definitely there. We have seen more information than ever now that we have been consistently wearing masks for over a year. I have been a dental hygienist for over 30 years, I have watched the progression of disease in patients’ mouths that we could not get under control. 80% of the patients I have seen long-term with chronic gum disease have an underlying systemic condition that sometimes takes 5-10 years to get diagnosed. I watched my Uncle lose teeth for ten years before being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I myself have ignored the signs and symptoms explaining them away chalking it up to lack of sleep or stress until my gums started to bleed.
Bleeding gums is an early warning sign something is wrong in the body. I truly believe everything starts with the nose and the mouth.
The # 1 thing your body needs to survive is oxygen
Every part of your body needs oxygen to survive. https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/how-your-lungs-work/why-do-we-breathe
Functions of the body like digesting your food, moving your muscles to brush your teeth, or even just thinking, need oxygen. For this process to happen, a gas called carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product. The job of your nose and lungs is to provide your body with the oxygen it needs to get rid of the gas waste, carbon dioxide.
The nose is lined with hairs and mucus membranes; to help filter the air you breathe in, and block dirt and dust, warm, moisturize, and filter air entering the body before it reaches the lungs. When you breathe in through your mouth, or oral cavity, the air is moistened, but not filtered.
Your brain constantly gets signals from your body that detect the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.
Your brain will send signals to the muscles involved in breathing and adjust your breathing depending on how active you are. We have the ability to breathe through our mouth that does mean we should. Your mouth is not your optimal route for breathing – that job belongs to the nose. It’s important to establish nasal breathing as soon as possible at any stage of life. Nasal breathing has important sensory and neurological functions that provide 18% more oxygen to your body and it’s the foundation of all proper breathing patterns.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, contributes to many structural and functional problems and contributes to an avalanche of health issues.
Mouth breathers also need to make sure that they do not have other forms of dysfunctional breathing.
Even when mouth breathing is corrected postural and oral muscle functional issues can remain and need to be addressed with Oral Myofunctional Therapy. An assessment will help to determine if you need further treatment.
It may also be necessary to see a dentist or ear, nose, and throat physician to correct structural issues and optimize the airway size.
I have only touched on the surface of how your mouth is connected to the health of your body.
Brushing, flossing, water flossing, diet, pH, nose breathing are a few things you can do at home to help curb the inflammation. It is never just one thing that causes inflammation. Knowing the health of your mouth, where you are missing, what tools are best for you to control the disease and disrupt the plaque and bacteria at least twice daily are the first of many steps you can take to create a healthy habit that maintains the health of your mouth and the health of your body.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.