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How Oral Health Impacts Your Overall Health

by Dr. Nicos Onisiforou – Periodontist, Prosthodontist

Good oral health is often viewed as separate from the rest of our bodily health. However, emerging evidence indicates that oral health, particularly gum disease, plays a significant role in our overall health. Understanding this connection can help us take better care of not only our mouths but also our bodies.

Understanding Gum Disease

When bacteria in dental plaque cause gum inflammation, they can enter the bloodstream, potentially triggering a cascade of inflammatory responses in other parts of the body. This systemic spread of oral bacteria has been linked to a variety of health issues.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, ranges from simple gum inflammation (gingivitis) to severe damage to the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth (periodontitis). If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. However, the implications of gum disease extend beyond the mouth.

The Systemic Impact of Gum Disease

1. Heart Disease:

Gum disease has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The bacteria from infected gums can enter the bloodstream, where they contribute to inflammation and damage to the blood vessels. This can lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, which narrow the arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Studies have found remnants of oral bacteria in atherosclerotic blood vessels far from the mouth .

2. Diabetes:

The relationship between diabetes and gum disease is bidirectional. Diabetes increases the risk of periodontal disease due to impaired immune responses and poor blood sugar control. Conversely, severe gum disease can make it harder to control blood sugar levels, exacerbating diabetes. This cyclical relationship highlights the need for diabetics to maintain rigorous oral hygiene and regular dental care .

3. Respiratory Ailments:

Oral bacteria can be aspirated into the lungs, leading to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. This is particularly concerning for elderly individuals and those with compromised immune systems, where such infections can be life-threatening .

4. Alzheimer’s Disease:

Emerging research suggests a potential link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic inflammation caused by gum disease may contribute to the development of dementia. Some studies have detected oral bacteria in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, although the exact nature of this relationship requires further investigation .

5. Cancer:

There is growing evidence that periodontal disease may be linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, including those of the stomach and esophagus. A history of gum disease has been associated with a higher risk of these cancers, particularly in individuals who have experienced tooth loss.

6. Pregnancy and Birth Complications:

During pregnancy, hormonal changes can exacerbate gum problems, making women more susceptible to periodontitis. Research indicates a clear association between periodontal disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as premature birth and low birth weight. 

Prevention and Treatment

Preventing gum disease is crucial for protecting both oral and general health. Early-stage gum disease, known as gingivitis, is preventable and reversible with proper oral hygiene. Here are some steps to maintain healthy gums:

  1. Brush and Floss Regularly: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque from between the teeth and along the gum line.
  2. Regular Dental Check-ups: Visit your dentist at least every six months for cleanings and check-ups. Early detection and treatment of gum disease can prevent its progression. Your dentist may suggest more frequent visits or cleanings (such as deep cleanings), depending on your condition. You may need to be seen by a gum specialist, a Periodontist, if your gums need more care.
  3. Healthy Diet: A balanced diet low in sugar and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supports overall health, including oral health.
  4. Quit Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for gum disease and can impede treatment. Quitting smoking can improve gum health and reduce the risk of related health issues.

Investing in your oral health is a vital part of investing in your overall health. If you have concerns about gum disease or your oral hygiene routine, contact our clinic “Art of Advanced Dentistry” at +357 25 586250 or fill the form on our contact page.