Untreated oral diseases such as periodontal disease and tooth decay will not resolve themselves when left untreated and can have a profound impact on your quality of life. The pain can restrict normal activities like eating, and can disturb your sleep. Advanced stages of tooth decay and periodontal disease, can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
But, did you know that the health of your teeth and gums can play a direct role in your cardiovascular, pulmonary and mental health? The health of your mouth reflects your overall health and well-being throughout your life. Oral diseases and other diseases share common risk factors, so when your dentist tells you to brush and floss daily, not only will it help prevent plaque build-up on your teeth, it can also reduce the risk the other chronic conditions throughout your life.
How are they connected?
When you have inflammation of the gums or periodontal disease, the bacteria from your teeth and gums can enter your bloodstream and travel to your heart. This can cause atherosclerosis which causes plaque to develop and thicken on the inner walls of the arteries, which in turn can decrease or block the flow of blood throughout your body. The reduced or blocked blood flow increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. The inner lining of the heart can also become infected and inflamed which is called endocarditis. A recent study found that frequent tooth brushing was associated with lower levels of cardiovascular disease.
The Journal of Periodontology warns that gum disease can cause you to get infections in your lungs, including pneumonia. The connection to gum disease and pneumonia is attributed to breathing in bacteria from infected teeth and gums over a long period of time. Studies have shown that better oral hygiene care can prevent respiratory infections and death from pneumonia in elderly people in hospitals and nursing homes.
People who suffer from diabetes are also more susceptible to periodontal disease, making good dental care even more important. Inflammation of the gum tissue and periodontal disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar making your diabetes symptoms even worse.
One surprising connection to dental health is dementia. The bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream causing dementia and may even lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dry mouth can also increase the risk of tooth decay which can lead to these serious diseases mentioned above. Oftentimes, chronic conditions and medications taken to treat them can increase the likelihood of dry mouth. Commonly used drugs that can cause dry mouth include tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, atropinics, Beta-blockers and antihistamines. Saliva protects teeth against tooth decay by lubricating the mouth and gums which reduces bacteria growth. Saliva also provides minerals, such as calcium, phosphate, and fluoride needed to remineralize tooth surfaces where tooth decay begins.
Tips to relieve dry mouth include:
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies to stimulate the flow of saliva.
- Limit caffeine.
- Don’t use mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
- Try a mouthwash designed for dry mouth such as Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse, or ACT Total Care Dry Mouth, both of which offer protection against tooth decay.
- Stop all tobacco use.
- Sip water regularly.
- Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes such as Mouth Kote, Oasis Moisturizing Mouth Spray, or Biotene Oral Balance.
- Breathe through your nose and not your mouth.
- Sleep with a room humidifier at night.
Simple tasks to prevent periodontal disease include brushing your teeth after meals, flossing, and using mouthwash. Our pharmacies carry many products to help improve and maintain your oral health. If you have any questions about which products may be right for you,or if any of the medications you are taking cause dry mouth, talk to one of our pharmacists, because you can’t wait to feel better.
Sources: NIH, Colgate, Mayo Clinic