Dental conditions can be both the cause and result of seemingly unrelated health complications. However, it is easier to link an oral health issue to a pre-existing health condition than it is to connect new health conditions to pre-existing dental problems. As knowledge and awareness is key to successfully preventing dental diseases and consequent health issues, let us get to understand the connection better.
How Can Oral Health Affect Overall Health?
According to kids-dentist.com.au, the mouth is a primary orifice on the human body, and it’s filled with bacteria. Under normal and healthy oral conditions, these microorganisms do not pose a threat to the host. However, dental problems are often associated with directly/indirectly boosting the oral microbiome’s population, Dr Soha says.
Once the microbiome population crosses all safety thresholds, they may begin to spread. Since our mouths provide direct and indirect access to the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the digestive system, the excess germs from our mouths may cause new infections in these parts.
The bacterium is also likely to aggravate pre-existing health conditions and exploit potential vulnerabilities, if and where they are present. This does not happen in all cases of course, because there are a few crucial factors that make it either easier or harder for these oral germs to spread and infect other systems.
What are the Deciding Factors?
Favourable conditions increase the potential risk of developing related health problems. Therefore, prevention is possible through elimination of these favourable conditions. All secondary health issues that have so far been linked to dental conditions are always dependent on factors such as:
· The type(s) of dental condition(s) a patient has
· Whether the original problem is being actively monitored and treated by a dentist or orthodontist
· How long the conditions have remained undetected and untreated
· The severity of the condition(s)
· Whether there are pre-existing immunocompromising health conditions such as an HIV infection
If and when the conditions are favourable, oral diseases, conditions and deformities can be responsible for the following health conditions.
Heart Disease and Circulatory Blockages
Heart disease includes a very wide spectrum of conditions that may or may not be linked to overflowing mouth bacteria. However, heart infections, arrhythmia and coronary artery disease have all been linked to oral bacteria in several instances. The presence of oral bacteria inflames our arterial walls, which consequently leads to heart attacks and brain strokes due to oxygen deprivation.
Our heart’s inner lining, aka the endocardium, begins to swell on being exposed to bacterial infections. This condition is called infective endocarditis, which may lead to symptoms such as:
· Detection of abnormal sounds from the heart (heart murmur heard through a stethoscope)
· Fever and night sweats
· Joint and muscle pain
· Inflamed limbs and extremities
· Swollen abdomen
· Breathing problems, accompanied by coughing
· Decreased appetite
· Nausea and weakness
· Pale skin with sensitive, red/purple spots underneath the skin (extremities)
· Tightness, swelling and an everlasting feeling of being full around the upper left abdomen
· In extreme cases, blood might begin to appear in the patient’s urine, and they could be losing weight rapidly
The most common form of endocarditis is infective endocarditis, and invading oral bacteria is almost always the main culprit. However, infective endocarditis may also be caused by the usage of infected needles, the transmission of STDs, and the insertion of catheters.
The link between oral bacteria and pneumonia was confirmed after several observational studies conducted in hospitals. Apparently, excess plaque build-up over time causes the bacteria in human saliva to overpopulate and invade the oropharynx first. From there on, it enters the lungs, and within a very short period of time, a full-blown infection (pneumonia) occurs.
This was found to be the most common among incapacitated patients, especially among those on ventilation. However, long-neglected oral hygiene can also increase one’s susceptibility to pneumonia, even if they are not hospitalised or incapacitated. A simple cold can be dangerous for older/immunocompromised individuals with poor oral hygiene and untreated dental problems, on account of their severely increased susceptibility to pneumonia. The most common dental imbalances found in people with hospital/general pneumonia were missing tooth/teeth and large cavities.
Periodontitis or gum disease is often linked to diabetes as both a result and a contributing factor. Having the two simultaneously is both common and degenerative for the patient since periodontitis and diabetes simultaneously exacerbates the patient’s rapidly worsening health conditions on both fronts. There is a proven connection between swollen gums and high insulin resistance, but the relationship is not just symptomatic. Even in periodontitis patients without diabetes, a gradual loss of blood sugar control is noted. In many of the observed instances, patients will eventually become diabetics.
Although the causal relationship is not fully understood or established yet, periodontal disease in non-diabetics should be treated as a precursor. It is essential to treat the condition at its earliest, so that the patients have a lower chance of becoming diabetic later on. On failing to do so, the patient will gradually lose their ability to utilise insulin for breaking down sugar. High blood sugar will continue to make it easy for the bacteria to thrive, making them almost impossible to get rid of.
Is It Possible to Prevent Secondary Complications from Primary Dental Problems?
On taking just a few proven steps towards oral hygiene and dental care, it is possible for most of us to avoid secondary health complications that arise from them. This holds true for the elderly and immunocompromised individuals as well, although they will need to be more vigilant about the same steps.
· Brush twice a day in up-down motions, and do not use a toothbrush for more than 2 months
· Floss every day
· Brush right after eating a sugar-rich meal/drink, and try to limit sugar consumption in general
· Completely avoid, or at least limit tobacco chewing habits
· Use an antibacterial mouthwash every day, in between the two brushing sessions
Of course, these steps will only be effective when you do not already have a dental condition to worry about. If you already have periodontal disease, missing/damaged tooth/teeth, misaligned teeth, or any other oral health problem, you will need to get them treated first. For more guidance regarding the actual treatment, contact Pure Dentistry and find a dentist in Brisbane to consult with. From regular oral health check-ups and teeth cleaning/whitening services to performing complicated tooth extractions, tooth replacements, and root canal therapies, this dentist in Brisbane is equipped to provide any type of care that the patient may need.
There are several other proposed connections in between oral health and overall health that we skipped here because they have not yet been established. Nonetheless, what has been established is sufficient to give anybody a pause, so that they can rethink their own oral hygiene practices.
It is highly advised to see a dentist or orthodontist in case you do have an untreated problem. Serious, life-threatening situations can be created by something as common as a broken or chipped tooth, or a mild toothache you have been ignoring forever. For example, sharp, chipped teeth can lead to tongue cancer, and yet, very few of us are even aware of that fact. Similarly, that mild toothache is most likely a long, festering gum infection. Only a dentist can tell you for sure.