Keeping your teeth clean and your gums healthy is important for many reasons. You need your teeth in good shape in order to eat a balanced diet and to speak properly. And cavities, tooth infections, and mouth sores can all be very painful, which is reason enough to avoid dental problems. But there are even more serious reasons why it's vital to maintain your dental health, and especially your gum health. Take a look at three serious health conditions that are linked with gum disease.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Doctors have long suspected a link between gum disease and heart disease. Though it's difficult to tell which one causes the other, there's a good chance that gum disease is an indicator for heart disease. Studies have shown that Streptococcus sanguis, a bacteria that is found in patients with gum disease, can spread from the mouth to the heart. Streptococcus
This happens because of the inflammation involved in your gum disease. Your gums have a lot of blood vessels, and when they become inflamed, it's easier for the bacteria in your mouth to travel below the gum line and get into your bloodstream. From there, the bacteria have access to the heart. Keeping your gums healthy may go a long way to preventing heart disease.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
Like heart disease, diabetes has been linked with gum disease for a long time. Research from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health suggests that non-diabetic patients who suffer from gum disease are more likely to develop diabetes than patients who did not have gum disease.
It's unclear whether patients can prevent diabetes by treating their gum disease early on. However, it does appear that treating the gums helps lower inflammation all over the body, not just in the mouth. Also, there is some evidence that suggests that removing the teeth, and therefore preventing further infection, reduces the risk of diabetes. Therefore, it's possible that treating gum disease and avoiding future infections can also reduce the risk of diabetes.
Gum Disease and Alzheimer's Disease
The causes of Alzheimer's disease are largely a mystery. Scientists and doctors are still researching and learning about this disease and how to treat it. One method of research involves studying human brains that are donated to science after death. One team of researchers discovered several brains of Alzheimer's patients contained a bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis. This bacteria is a major factor in cases of severe gum and tooth diseases.
The bacteria can travel to the brain in the same way that it could travel to the heart and cause heart disease, and inflammation makes such travel much more likely. What's more, Alzheimer's patients are known to have severe inflammation in the brain, and some scientists believe it's possible that inflammation in the gums or in other locations in the body could be connected to this brain inflammation.
It seems clear that keeping your mouth free of gum disease may not only be good for your mouth – it could save your life. If you suspect that you may be suffering from gum disease, it's important to make an appointment with your dentist for gum disease treatment as soon as possible.