The human body is mostly a closed system. Bacteria or viruses that want to get in have only a couple of avenues of entry—nose, mouth, eyes—or through a cut or puncture in the skin. Our bodies are pretty successful at keeping danger at bay and, while we have developed the means to fight off most bacteria and viruses, that hardly means that we’re immune to everything. Here in Arizona, scorpions and rattlesnakes are incredibly efficient at making holes in our skin, into which they inject venom that spreads quickly, wreaking havoc on the central nervous system.
When a bacteria or virus enters our system, white blood cells fight the invaders while, in the brain, the hypothalamus raises our temperature to create an inhospitable environment for the infectious agents. When the bacteria or virus has been destroyed, the once-infected cells are removed from the bloodstream by the kidneys and carried out of the body. Many different anatomical components, all of which are connected, and all of which should work together to keep us healthy.
We don’t always remember that everything within our bodies is connected because the connections are not usually obvious. It seems shocking when medical science finds a relationship between two maladies such as inflammation and depression, tuberculosis and Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. However, it’s not shocking at all if one can envision everything in our bodies affecting everything else.
There was a time when you only went to the dentist when you had a toothache. The dentist would fill or pull your tooth and wouldn’t see you again until your next toothache. Teeth were almost a luxury and were considered to be as ornamental as they were functional; they helped you look better and chew better than you would without them, but eventually they’d fall out and life would go on. People didn’t think much about their oral health, as is evident by this photo of the usually unsmiling President Woodrow Wilson in 1913:
Today, good oral health has taken on a major role in contributing to good general health. According to the Mayo Clinic, problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body, and taking care of oral health is an investment in overall health.
Here are a few of the known health issues which can arise through poor oral health:
- Heart Disease – According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there is clearly a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. They also suggest, to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, brush your teeth for at least two minutes, twice per day. The chronic inflammation of periodontal disease can cause infection and bacteria to enter the circulatory system, where it’s carried to the heart. According to the American College of Cardiology, gum disease increases risk for a heart attack by 50%.
- Diabetes – Five years ago, the international science journal Nature published a study showing that periodontal disease and diabetes shared a two-way relationship. Diabetes can cause periodontal disease—increasing the risk for periodontitis by 2-3 times—and periodontal disease can also bring about type 2 diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes can cause high glucose levels in saliva, which sets the stage for gum disease; gum infection further decreases blood glucose control and increases insulin resistance; high blood glucose levels make fighting infections more difficult, cause more severe gum disease; severe gum disease can then further increase blood glucose levels, creating longer periods of time with high blood sugar.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – In our blog from February 2019, we discussed recent studies that found that Porphyromonas gingivalis, the main bacteria involved in gum disease, is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. It’s uncertain how P. gingivalis gets into the brain, but there are plausible routes it could take. Your mouth normally hosts a diverse and relatively stable community of bacteria, but when dental plaque builds under the edge of your gums, it can form inflamed pockets in which P. gingivalis can thrive and release toxins.
There’s no reason to endanger your overall health. An appointment with Dr. Robert Brei, DDS, Cosmetic and Family Dentistry will ensure you maintain good oral care, which will provide you with better general health. Only a highly-skilled dentist like Dr. Brei will be able to spot and reverse gum disease in its earliest stages.