You’ve probably heard of the mind-body connection: your psychological well-being and your physical health are closely linked. So, if you’re prone to stress, for example, you can elevate your blood pressure and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Well, scientists are finally beginning to realize that your oral health plays a big role in your physical health as well (dentists have known this for years). Check out these headlines:
Sounds intense, right? It should. Your oral health is a serious matter, and preventing gum disease may be the key to a healthier you in the future.
So, what is gum disease anyway? Gum disease is a chronic infection that often stems from less-than-optimal oral hygiene (e.g. not flossing, avoiding dental visits, etc.). It’s hard to imagine that an infection in your gums can have such a dramatic impact on things like the heart, lungs, bones, blood-sugar levels, and fetal development, but it does.
Here’s how bacteria from your gums can affect your body:
1. Circulatory System – Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums and travel to other parts of the body. As it travels, it can cause secondary infections or contribute to diseases already in progress.
2. Immune System – The body’s inflammatory response to gum disease can trigger other inflammatory diseases (heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure) and cause arteries to swell.
3. Respiratory System – The bacteria from gum disease adheres to saliva droplets that you inhale. You can actually breathe in the bacteria every time you inhale. This can cause pulmonary infections and respiratory problems.
4. Blood Sugar – Gum disease increases blood-sugar levels and makes diabetes harder to control.
The bottom line? You can eat right, work out every day, and visit your doctor regularly, but if you neglect your oral health, you’re essentially shooting yourself in the foot. Visit your dentist regularly and prevent gum disease from sabotaging your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Together, you, your dentist, and your physician can help prevent systemic illnesses from spiraling out of control.