5 Health Problems With Surprising Dental Causes
Believe it or not, your mouth is a window to your health. It provides signals of health problems throughout the body. For example, pale and bleeding gums can be a sign of blood disorders, mouth lesions can be a sign of HIV infections, and changes in tooth appearance can indicate bulimia or anorexia.
Oral health is essential to overall health and well-being, so it’s important to take it seriously. There are several health problems that are highly correlated with oral health problems. By taking care of your oral health, you can take care of your total health and reduce your risk for the following conditions:
Periodontal disease (gum disease) may increase the risk of respiratory infections. Research published by the Journal of Periodontology found the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia is higher in patients with periodontal disease.
Patients with poor oral health conditions are constantly breathing in bacteria from the mouth into the lungs over a period of time. This bacteria can lead to inflammation in the lungs as well as respiratory infections.
Pulmonary diseases such as pneumonia and COPD can be extremely debilitating. Pneumonia (in combination with influenza) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today.
Diabetes and gum disease are closely linked. High blood sugar, as found in diabetes patients, creates an increased risk for gum disease. At the same time, a patient with gum disease has an increased chance of developing diabetes. As you can see, this can lead to a vicious cycle of trying to manage the two conditions.
Gum disease makes it even harder for insulin in the body to do its job, magnifying the symptoms of diabetes. However, treating gum disease effectively has a positive reverse effect. Reducing gum disease can improve diabetes symptoms.
Like diabetes, heart disease is also closely linked to gum disease. In fact, people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. Among patients with heart disease, up to 91% also suffer from gum disease.
Researchers have found that inflammation in the mouth may increase inflammation in the blood vessels. This can increase the risk for heart attack by raising blood pressure or increasing the likelihood of fatty plaque breaking off and traveling to the heart or brain.
It may seem surprising, but some research suggests that there is a connection between poor oral health and dementia. Studies show that tooth loss in seniors is correlated to poor performance in memory and walking speed.
The current theory is that oral bacteria may spread to the brain through cranial nerves that connect to the jaw. It’s also possible oral bacteria travels through the bloodstream to reach the brain as well. This bacteria may contribute to the type of plaque that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s.
Compared to the other health problems on this list, chronic headaches don’t seem so bad. But don’t underestimate chronic headaches, because they can be persistent, debilitating, and painful.
Here are a few signals which may indicate the headache has a dental origin:
- Pain behind the eyes
- Sore jaw muscles
- Teeth grinding
- Clicking or popping jaw joints
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ, is a common condition that involves problems between the jaw bone and the temporal bone of the skull. Headaches from TMJ can be located on one or both sides of the head and are usually near the temples. If your jaw frequently pops or clicks, mention it to your dentist at your next appointment.
Most chronic headaches are categorized as tension headaches, which results from muscular tension that builds up in the face and jaw. Sometimes, this tension is caused by a “bad bite.” If the surfaces of your teeth do not meet along a smooth curve when your jaw is shut, you may have a bad bite. In this case, the muscles in the jaw are forced to constantly overcompensate, which may result in headaches.
Stop The Problem At The Source
Before dental problems become much bigger problems, take control of your dental health. Follow these important tips to start:
- Develop Daily Dental Health Habits - Brushing and flossing are the foundation for good oral health. Turn these small tasks into automatic daily habits. Don’t forget to use proper technique!
- Quit Smoking - If you are a smoker, the single greatest thing you can do for your health is to quit. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Dig into a bunch of great resources to help you kick the habit!
- Follow A Healthy Diet - The foods you eat and how often you eat them can affect your teeth, gums, mouth, and your whole body! Clean up your diet and watch the ripple effect it has on your health and your life.
- Schedule Regular Dentist Appointments - It’s recommended to see a dentist twice per year, about six months apart. If it’s been a while since your last appointment, don’t put it off any longer. A dental exam and cleaning will put you back on the right track!
How Batchelor Dentistry Can Help
Taking care of your teeth is part of taking care of your whole body. If you’re due (or overdue) for a dentist appointment, take action and stop larger health problems before they start.
To learn more about the topics discussed in this article, check out these resources: