Healthy mouth, healthy body!

Very often we look at the mouth and oral health in isolation, with the emphasis on brush, brush, and floss to keep the teeth and gums clean.  But the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body and with such a profuse blood supply to the oral area it is perhaps unsurprising that poor oral health can impact, exacerbate and even cause ill health.

Bacteria that naturally inhabit the mouth make their home in dental plaque, which if not brushed away just gets thicker and thicker, and contains more and more bacteria.  This bacteria triggers the body’s immune system causing gum inflammation which, when mild, is known as gingivitis- the condition where the gums sometimes bleed on brushing.  If left unchecked this goes on to develop into periodontitis, more commonly referred to as ‘gum disease’ where the body’s response to the bacteria left to sit around the teeth goes on to destroy the underlying bone supporting the teeth.

The inflamed blood vessels in gum disease are swollen and enlarged and become much more porous.  Mouth bacteria can very easily enter the bloodstream through these porous blood vessels. If gum disease is left untreated the prolonged inflammatory response of the body is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time. Studies have found that people with gum disease are much more likely to have poor heart health.  The chronic inflammatory condition of periodontitis increases inflammation throughout the body, which induces thickening of the blood vessels over time leading to increased blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack.

As dentists we have been aware for many years that people with Diabetes are more likely to experience gum disease, however evidence now shows that that severe gum disease can actually increase blood sugar levels which if sustained may lead to the development of type II diabetes in previously healthy people.

Emerging research has also now linked chronic gum disease with a small but clinically significant increased risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and a reduced lung function.

So how to prevent all this risk? Simple plaque removal with brushing and regular visits to a dental hygienist for a gum assessment and tips on how to improve tooth brushing and plaque removal.  Most dental practices now offer a hygiene service after a dental check up, however some hygienists can take bookings directly without the need to first see a dentist – this is known as direct access and is a simple and easy way to access dental hygiene care. You don’t even need to be registered – just call up your dental practice and they will be glad to help!