Clean teeth. Good breath. Avoiding uncomfortable toothaches, cavities and gum disease. You already know the benefits of oral hygiene, even if your dental education is solely limited to watching toothpaste commercials.
But the importance of good oral health extends far deeper than your mouth alone. Your oral health is intricately connected to your overall health. Just as your eyes are the window to your soul, your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body!
How Does Oral Health Affect Overall Health?
Your mouth is the entry point to both your respiratory and digestive tracts – two systems which feed directly to every other part of your body. Your mouth is also connected directly to your circulatory system, which similarly spans the whole of your anatomy. That is why when you allow excessive harmful bacteria to accumulate on your teeth and within your gums, you are effectively giving them access to other sensitive organs.
Poor oral health may contribute to a wide range of potentially fatal diseases. The following list of conditions that result from (or are at least linked to) poor oral health is not exhaustive, but it does give you a good sense of just how far-reaching poor oral health’s implications can be!
- Heart disease – Periodontitis (aka gum disease) is not known to cause cardiovascular disease per se, but people who are diagnosed with it are also at higher risk of developing heart disease. Scientists theorize that the bacteria which infect gums travel through the bloodstream until they arrive at the heart, where they form clots and otherwise damage soft tissue until a heart attack or stroke both become more likely.
- Endocarditis – An inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s valves and chambers, endocarditis typically results from a bacterial or fungal infection which originated in another part of the body. Poor dental hygiene is one of the leading causes of this life-threatening condition. People with only moderate tooth plaque are up to four times more likely to have bacteria which could cause endocarditis in their bloodstreams!
- Rheumatoid arthritis – A recent study by the Johns Hopkins University Division of Rheumatology demonstrated that the bacterium which causes periodontitis may also trigger the same inflammatory autoimmune response which occurs in arthritis patients. Whether or not actinomycetemcomitans actually causes arthritis is not yet known, but it is probable that its presence in the gums at least exacerbates existing symptoms of arthritis.
- Pneumonia – Multiple oral disorders may influence the course of respiratory infections such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Just like the harmful bacteria which occur in periodontitis and tooth plaque may travel through the bloodstream, so too can they travel through the trachea and larynx until they reach the sensitive lungs. In a recent study conducted in South Korea, 49.6% of patients who were hospitalized with pneumonia for seven days or longer also had periodontal disease!
- Pregnancy complications – Periodontitis is associated with a variety of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including heightened risk of premature birth, low birth weight and preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system). These connections are not yet well-understood, although the increased risk of gum inflammation in pregnant women may be caused at least in part by their changing hormones.
Why Do You Need a Prosthodontist?
A prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in treating the complex defects and dysfunctions which can affect any of the facial structures. They may fully or partially repair teeth by administering therapies including root canals, dental crowns and dental implants. In addition to the oral cavity, a prosthodontist also treats facial areas ranging from the chin to the nose.
Prosthodontists are trained to diagnose, prevent and treat a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions affecting the oral cavity and surrounding soft and hard tissues. In other words, a prosthodontist’s job is to address precisely the oral conditions which may predispose their patients to developing heart disease, endocarditis, and all the other diseases which may result from poor oral health.
Dr. Congdon, who is Centrasota Dental’s own prosthodontist, takes great pride in both the short- and long-term benefits of his work. Not only does he and the rest of our team help our patients to enjoy their very best smiles. We are helping them to avoid several life-threatening diseases as well!
If you live in the greater St. Cloud, Minnesota area, then we welcome you to contact Centrasota Dental today to schedule a consultation. Your oral health – and by extension your overall health – deserve no less than our expert and passionate care!