By Kate Ranta on May 16, 2013 @ 10:59 AM
Need another reason to keep your teeth in tip top shape? How about this -- your overall health depends on it!
Periodontal disease has been linked to health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. It can also complicate diabetes. Understanding the connection between the health of your mouth and the health of your body is essential in taking care of your overall health.
Oral Health and Heart Disease
Oral bacteria can affect the heart when it enters the blood stream. It attaches to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributes to clot formation. Coronary artery disease is a thickening of the walls of the arteries due to the build-up of fatty proteins. Blood clots can block normal blood flow. This restricts the amount of nutrients and oxygen the heart needs to function properly and may lead to heart attacks.
Periodontal disease also causes inflammation, which increases plaque build-up in the heart. This can contribute to swelling of the arteries. Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.
Oral Health and Strokes (CVA)
Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and strokes, also known as cerebrovascular accidents (CVA). One study found that people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
Oral Health and Cancer
According to new research, persistent plaque on the teeth and gums increases the risk of infection. This can initiate a defense by the immune system in the form of an inflammatory reaction. Up to 20 percent of cancers are caused by an inflammatory process.
That said, the risk of anyone with dental plaque dying early of cancer was low, according to the study. The important thing to remember is to keep your teeth and gums as plaque-free as possible and have regular dental check-ups.
Oral Health and Diabetes
The link between gum disease and diabetes is a strong one. It's believed that inflammation that starts in the mouth weakens the body's ability to control blood sugar. This puts those with diabetes at risk because they have trouble processing sugar due to a lack of insulin, which is the hormone that converts sugar into energy. The inflammation that comes with gum disease complicates diabetes because it impairs the body's ability to use insulin.
Reduce Your Risk for Periodontal Disease
There are easy ways to avoid gum disease and stay healthy. Brush your teeth twice a day (with fluoride toothpaste), floss daily, avoid smoking and visit the dentist routinely for a check-up and cleaning.