You might recognize how poor oral hygiene can affect your everyday life. Cavities can cause to severe toothaches, gum disease can lead to tooth loss if not treated, and the excessive gathering of bacteria can chronically foul your breath. What you might not realize, however, is how neglecting your teeth and gums to lead to health issues throughout your entire body. Lake Forest dentist, Dr. James Fondriest, explains that your oral health is intricately connected to the well being of your body. The same mechanisms behind common dental diseases can pose serious risks to your systemic health, which has taught experts that oral health may not be as separated from your physical health as many people might believe.
The Germs that Dwell in Your Mouth
Even a healthy mouth contains over 600 different kinds of oral bacteria, each with its own distinctive set of characteristics. The exact nature of all of your mouth’s microbes is unclear, but researchers have identified a few specific kinds that pose a direct threat to your teeth and gums. For instance, Porphyromonas gingivalis, a notorious contributor to plaque formation, is known to incite inflammation when the germs gather along your gum line. The swelling and occasional bleeding are precursors to aggressive gum disease, which destroys gum tissue and the jawbone underneath it if allowed to progress. As a natural response by your immune system, inflammation can appear anywhere throughout the body. In excess, it can also prove a significant risk factor for a wide variety of systemic illnesses, including heart disease, respiratory infections, dementia, and other chronic inflammatory conditions.
The Dangers of Deceptive Oral Bacteria
P. gingivalis and other harmful germs may originate within the mouth, but in the midst of gum disease and other oral infections, the germs can enter the bloodstream through infected or bleeding tissues. As they travel throughout your body, the bacteria can lead to inflammation in other tissues and contribute to a variety of issues. A lesser-known oral bacterium, formally known as Streptococcus gordonii, is harmless in the mouth’s environment. When allowed into your bloodstream, however, the germ produces a molecule on its surface that fools the body into recognizing it as the protein fibrinogen. The protein is key factor in blood-clotting, and when S. gordonni are present, your blood’s platelets form around them, causing clots that protect the germs from your immune system, but that can also place your health at risk.
Oral and Heart Health
Heart disease is one of the most well-known conditions associated with inflammation. When the muscles and tissues around your heart swell and harden, the inflammation can make it difficult for the heart to operate properly, making inflammation one of the most potent threats to your heart’s health. In some studies, P. gingivalis infection has been shown to exacerbate atherosclerosis—a disease of the arteries that often leads to heart disease and failure.
Oral and Lung Health
In a study published by the Journal of Periodontology, researchers discovered that patients with various respiratory infections also had a notably worse periodontal health compared to study participants who had no history of respiratory trouble. Illnesses like pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and acute bronchitis develop when bacteria is inhaled into the lower respiratory tract. Though a definitive cause-and-effect relationship has not been developed, experts believe the results of the study strongly suggest a link between poor oral health and poor respiratory health.
Oral and Physical Health
The relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes is a two-way street. Diabetic patients often experience weaker immune systems, and may have trouble fighting off the bacterial infection leading to gum disease. Also, gum disease can hinder your body’s ability to control your blood sugar, leading to extended periods of high blood sugar and an increased risk for diabetic complications.
About Lake Forest Dental Arts:
Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.