According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all US adults have this problem that’s linked to heart disease, cancer and cognitive impairment.
What is it? Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. Gum disease is rooted in the build-up of the sticky substance known as plaque on your teeth.
Plaque is said to be ground zero for bacterial growth. And that bacterial growth can irritate and inflame your gums.
You may have heard that bad teeth and gums is associated with heart disease. That’s true, it is. But that’s not all that’s linked to plaque in your mouth and gum disease.
Poor oral health is also linked to:
¨ Erectile Disfunction
¨ Respiratory Problems
¨ Heart Disease
¨ Cancer, and
¨ Cognitive Impairment
Common signs and symptoms of Gum disease include bloody, red, painful and swollen gums, bad breath, tooth sensitivity, and pain with chewing.
Obviously, the most serious health problems linked to gum disease are heart disease, cancer and cognitive impairment. So here’s a closer look at those three.
Heart Disease — A major theory as to why poor oral health is connected to heart disease is that inflammation in damaged and infected gums can set off or spread inflammation throughout the body, including within the cardiovascular system.
Another theory is that bacteria from your mouth can leach into your bloodstream via infected teeth and gums, leading to infections within the heart itself. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Oral Microbiology found that a type of bacteria commonly found in the mouth called P gingivalis is the most commonly found bacteria in arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
Cancer — The link between inflammation and chronic health disease is too strong to ignore. The fact that gum disease is hallmarked by inflammation offers another plausible explanation for why research has found poor oral health is linked to a significantly increased risk of cancer.
Another plausible explanation that’s supported by research is that bacteria in the mouth can produce enzymes that promote the growth of tumors and cancer cells.
Cognitive Impairment — Studies have shown that the more teeth you lose, the greater your risk of cognitive decline as you age. Research has also found that bacteria commonly found in the mouth can also be found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting a possible link to poor oral health and this terrible neurodegenerative syndrome.
Tips to Promote Oral Health & Overall Health and Longevity —
¨ Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and preferably after every meal
¨ Brush your teeth for at least two minutes at a time using gentle motions — some say away from gum tissues but we’ve known some dentists who suggest actually brushing the gums especially if the teeth around them are sore… but ASK your dentist if you should be brushing your gums or not, as it likely depends on your particular situation.
¨ Floss daily
¨ Get your teeth checked at least once (or more) a year — depending on your health status.
¨ Avoid consuming foods and beverages that contain a lot of sugar — bacteria love sugar just as much as us humans do!
Bottom line: your oral health is clearly connected to your overall health, so pay attention to it, and take care of it. Make it a habit.