As an accomplished dentist, Dr. Daryl Byrd understands the link between healthy teeth and gums and overall general health. Without regular dental care and hygiene, infected teeth or gums may contribute to serious health problems.
“Poor dental care can affect the heart and can cause cancers in the mouth and other parts of the body,” warns Dr. Byrd. “Your dental health is imperative.”
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is one of the most common infections in the body and is often more prevalent than the common cold. According to WebMD, there are over 400 different species of bacteria in the mouth that can cause gum disease. By the time most people turn 35, they have some degree of gum disease.
A study by the U.S. Public Health Service found that 98 percent of all Americans have some form of dental disease. The report goes on to state that many of these diseases can be eliminated with improved preventative dental care.
In a study published by The Lancet Oncology, Dr. Dominique Michaud and his colleagues looked at the correlation between periodontal disease and cancer. The studies showed a definite link between progressive periodontal disease and cancer. This is believed to be linked to systemic inflammation, which promotes the growth of cancerous cells. It was found that men with periodontal disease were 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent more likely to develop cancers of the blood.
“Many Americans believe the worst thing that can happen from infected teeth and gums is that they might lose a tooth,” says Dr. Daryl Byrd. “In reality, the worst thing that can happen is much more worrisome.”
Studies have shown that individuals with diabetes have periodontal disease in a greater percentage than people without diabetes. This is directly related to how an individual controls their blood sugar. Patients with poor blood sugar control are more likely to get gum disease, and may lose more teeth compared to patients with good control.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections, and periodontal disease can often be a complication of diabetes. It is imperative to schedule regular dental checkups in order to reduce the risk.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Proper dental hygiene can reduce the amount of bacteria that is found in the mouth. Ignoring regular dental care can multiply the bacteria, and eventually it can grow out of control. The bacteria may then enter the bloodstream and spread to the rest of the body.
According to Harvard Medical School, in a worst-case scenario, these bacteria can affect the heart and could cause endocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart. This condition has been directly linked to heart damage and strokes. For patients with an existing heart condition, this risk increases.
Bacteria found in the throat and mouth can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract, which can result in respiratory infections. Inhaling these bacteria filled particles from the mouth and throat into the lungs can cause the germs to breed and multiply within the lungs to cause damage.
Inhaling these droplets may cause infections or exacerbate existing lung conditions. Individuals with preexisting respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, have reduced protective systems which can make it difficult to eliminate the bacteria from the lungs.
“The effects of poor dental hygiene and respiratory infections are just being understood,” says Dr. Daryl Byrd. “Further study is needed to determine the effect bacterial mouth infection has on conditions such as asthma and other respiratory infections.”
The National Institute of Health agrees, stating, “An association between oral conditions such as periodontal disease and several respiratory conditions has been noted.” They go on to say that “it is important to realize that oral diseases are preventable and protocols should be developed to prevent even the possibility of such an association.”
Proper Dental Care
The way to reduce the risk of contracting a serious condition as a result of periodontal disease can be simple. Brushing the teeth after every meal, flossing at least once a day, and reducing the amount of sugar in the diet can make a major contribution to your overall health.
By visiting a dentist every 6 months, teeth and gum issues that occur can be diagnosed, and in most cases, easily fixed. This type of preventative care can play a major part in not only the health of the teeth and gums, but the body in general.
The link between the health of teeth and gums and the overall health of an individual has been established. Dr. Daryl Byrd believes that once this link is understood by the public, more people will consider daily dental care as an effective way to stay healthy.