Neglecting Your Teeth Can Have Serious Consequences
Poor oral health & gum disease have been linked to cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s
We all know about the obvious consequences of failing to take good care of your teeth and gums: advanced tooth decay, gum disease, tooth pain, and eventual tooth loss. But are you aware of some of the other serious health conditions that have been linked to poor oral health?
Many studies have explored the link between oral health, specifically gum disease, and heart health. In 2010, a group of researchers in the UK found that heart attacks and gum disease tend to go hand in hand because the same bacteria that cause plaque to form on teeth can enter the bloodstream and trigger clots. More recently, researchers from Columbia University investigated the link between gum disease and atherosclerosis, aka arterial plaque buildup. The researchers studied 420 adults for a period of three years, giving them periodic oral infection and artery thickness exams. At the end of the study, the individuals who had improved their gum health and reduced oral bacteria levels exhibited a slower rate of atherosclerosis progression. The study subjects who did not improve their gum health showed an increase of 0.1mm in their carotid arteries, which according to previous research nearly doubled their risk of heart attack.
Although experts do not yet consider gum disease an official risk factor for pancreatic cancer, research has shown a clear link between the two conditions. A study done by British researchers found that certain types of bacteria that are associated with gum disease were linked with increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Individuals with these bacteria doubled their risk of pancreatic cancer, while individuals with beneficial oral bacteria were 45 percent less likely to get pancreatic cancer. In a previous study, the same researchers found a 64 percent increase in risk of this type of cancer in men with a history of periodontal disease.
Last year, British researchers studying the brains of Alzheimer’s patients discovered a link between a bacteria named Porphyromonas gingivalis and Alzheimer’s. This bacteria is normally associated with chronic gum disease and is found in oral cavities. However, when it enters the bloodstream it may have the potential to travel to the brain, where immune system responses could result in a release of excess chemicals that are deadly to neurons. This process could result in confusion or memory loss symptoms.
Safeguard your Oral Health
It is never too late to start taking better care of your teeth and gums. The best way to start the process is with a visit to your local dentist for a thorough dental exam and teeth cleaning. That way, you can get a good foundation for future home care, and also receive treatment for any current problems you may have, such as gum disease, tooth decay, or pain.