Mouth bacteria can affect the heart, studies show. Researchers aren’t sure why that is, as gum disease isn’t proven to cause other diseases. But it does make sense to take care of your mouth like you do the rest of your body.
Mouth: Gum Disease and Diabetes
Diabetes can reduce the body’s resistance to infection. Elevated blood sugars increase the risk of developing gum disease. What’s more, gum disease can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels in check. Protect your gums by keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Brush after each meal and floss and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash daily. See your dentist at least twice a year.
Dry Tongue Causes Tooth Decay
The 4 million Americans who have Sjögren’s syndrome are more prone to have oral health problems. With Sjögren’s, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks tear ducts and saliva glands, leading to chronically dry eyes and dry mouth (called xerostomia). Saliva helps protect teeth and gums from bacteria that cause cavities and gingivitis. So a perpetually dry mouth is more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.
Check your medicine cabinet. Antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, and antidepressants are among the drugs that can cause dry mouth. Talk to your doctor or dentist to find out if your medication regimen is affecting your oral health, and what you can do about it.
Osteoporosis and Tooth Loss
The brittle bone disease osteoporosis affects all the bones in your body including your jaw bone, and can cause tooth loss. Bacteria from periodontitis, which is severe gum disease, can also break down the jaw bone.
Pale Gums and Anemia
Your mouth may be sore and pale if you’re anemic, and your tongue can become swollen and smooth (glossitis). When you have anemia, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or your red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin. As a result, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen. There are different types of anemia, and treatment varies. Talk to your doctor to find out what type you have and how to treat it.
A dentist may be the first to notice signs of an eating disorder such as bulimia. The stomach acid from repeated vomiting can severely erode tooth enamel. Purging can also trigger swelling in the mouth, throat, and salivary glands as well as bad breath. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders can also cause serious nutritional shortfalls that can affect the health of your teeth.
Thrush and HIV
People with HIV or AIDS may develop oral thrush red rash), oral warts, fever blisters, canker sores, and hairy leukoplakia, which are white or gray patches on the tongue or the inside of the cheek. The body’s weakened immune system and its inability to stave off infections are to blame. People with HIV/AIDS may also experience dry mouth, which increases the risk of tooth decay and can make chewing, eating, swallowing, or talking difficult.
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are eight times more likely to have gum disease than people without this autoimmune disease. Inflammation may be the common denominator between the two. Making matters worse: people with RA can have trouble brushing and flossing because of damage to finger joints.
Tooth Loss and Kidney Disease
Adults without teeth may be more likely to have chronic kidney disease than those who still have teeth. Exactly how kidney disease and periodontal disease are linked is not 100% clear yet. But researchers suggest that chronic inflammation may be the common thread. So taking care of your teeth and gums may reduce your risk of developing chronic kidney problems.
Gum Disease and Premature Birth
If you’re pregnant and have gum disease, you could be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. Underlying inflammation or infections may be to blame. Pregnancy and its related hormonal changes also appear to worsen gum disease.
To keep gums healthy, practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day, rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day, see your dentist regularly, and avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.