Practicing good oral hygiene does more than prevent cavities and bad breath. Your oral health and overall health are closely related. Your oral health can affect everything from your heart to your liver. Poor oral health can potentially even cause diabetes and pregnancy complications. Despite this, three in ten Americans don’t brush their teeth at least twice a day. Even fewer Americans floss. If you find yourself in this group, a cavity may be the least of your concerns. Below are the top physical health complications that can arise from poor oral health.

Periodontal Disease & Pre-Diabetes

One of the most surprising links between oral health and overall health is that between periodontal disease and pre-diabetes. Nearly 65 million Americans aged 30 or older suffer from periodontal disease. Severe periodontal disease can impact the liver and pancreas, causing insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. This makes an individual more likely to develop pre-diabetes and potentially even Type II diabetes.

Individuals with diabetes are also more susceptible to further periodontal decay and disease. Fighting off infections in the gums becomes more difficult if blood glucose is too high. And if gum infections are left untreated, a person can experience tooth loss and swelling or bleeding in the gums. This causes an unfortunate cycle where a person’s blood sugar levels become harder to manage, exacerbating oral health issues.

Bacterial Infections & Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are also linked to poor oral health. Studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease can travel through the bloodstream and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke. For example, endocarditis develops as a bacterial infection that can stem from the mouth. This is because bacteria can more easily enter the gums when there are missing or damaged teeth. Then, this bacteria travels to the heart’s chambers and valves, causing inflammation of the heart’s lining. The disease is potentially fatal if not treated.

Strokes are another cause for concern. Oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and inflame blood vessels. This inflammation can lead to blood clots and stroke.

Respiratory Illness

There is a strong connection between poor oral health and respiratory disease. Tooth decay can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can then be inhaled into the lungs and cause infections like pneumonia or exacerbate existing respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Because chewing food is more difficult with painful or damaged teeth, people with poor oral health may also be at an increased risk of aspirating (inhaling) food or liquid into their lungs. Aspiration can lead to serious respiratory problems, including aspiration pneumonia.

Pregnancy Complications

Finally, the bacteria stemming from gum infections and periodontal disease can also negatively impact individuals who may be pregnant, as well as their unborn child.

For example, pregnancy can cause hormonal changes that increase the risk of developing gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to inflammation and infection, affecting the developing fetus. Studies have found that pregnant individuals with gum disease are more likely to have premature or low-birth-weight babies. Research has also suggested that there may be a link between gum disease and preeclampsia.

Harmful bacteria can travel beyond the mouth and enter the uterus via the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response that can cause premature birth or low birth weight.

Keep Your Smile Healthy with Center Valley Dental

There are preventative measures you can take to ensure that you can minimize the chances of severe oral disease Brushing and flossing every day is a great start, but getting to your 6-month check-up is just as important. Center Valley Dental offers general dentistry services, including cleanings, examinations, and fluoride rinses. We can help you identify potential oral health issues early and walk you through treatment and replacement options, including fillings, crowns, and dental implants. Protect your oral and overall health by scheduling an appointment today!