Tooth decay and gum disease are common problems in Australia that affect people of all ages – and they don’t only affect the mouth.
A growing body of evidence has proven the links between oral health and chronic diseases affecting other parts of the body, giving more good reasons to look after your teeth.
What chronic diseases are linked with poor oral health?
A review of 15 years’ worth of population-based studies by Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) has identified oral health problems such as gum disease and missing teeth as risk factors for a wide range of health conditions throughout the body. These include:
Elderly people with poor oral hygiene and tooth decay may be at higher risk of inhaling bacteria that cause lung infections.
Cardiovascular (heart) disease
Multiple studies have demonstrated that gum disease and tooth loss increase the risk factor for heart disease. One study found that people with fewer than 10 teeth remaining may be seven times more likely to die of coronary disease compared to people with 25 teeth.
A study of 4,000 Japanese participants found that tooth loss from any cause was associated with a higher risk of memory loss or early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
A Korean study found that the presence of gum disease or diabetes are mutual risk factors for developing the other condition. Total tooth loss was also found to increase diabetes risk.
Gum disease and poor oral health are commonly seen in patients with chronic kidney disease.
A study of private schools in the United States found that children who were overweight tended to have more dental problems. Young adults with a high waist circumference are also more likely to have gum disease.
Poor oral health is a risk factor for developing oral cancer, which can affect any of the soft tissues in or around the mouth. Your dentist may offer an oral cancer screening as part of your regular check-up.
Peripheral vascular disease
A link has been suggested between gum disease and hardening of the arteries in the legs, but further studies are needed.
Gum disease in pregnancy has been found to increase the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight. Gum disease may also increase the risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), which is a common cause of pregnancy complications.
Studies in Japan have demonstrated that good oral health and regular dental visits can reduce the progression of respiratory problems in high-risk elderly patients.
One study found that patients with peptic ulcers were likely to have poor oral health, with the plaque on their teeth containing the bacterium that may have transmitted the ulcer to the stomach.
Studies have found a strong association between gum disease and stroke. One study found that gum disease increased stroke risk by 17%.
How to lower your health risks
Following good oral hygiene can lower your risk of tooth decay and gum disease and associated health problems. Dentists recommend:
- brushing your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste
- flossing between your teeth once a day
- cutting down on sugar in food and drink that feeds plaque
- not smoking or drinking excessive alcohol
- keeping up with your regular dental visits
If it’s time for your check-up or you want to see to a dentist in Erskineville, contact our friendly team at Sydney Park Dental today. Call us on (02) 8084 7170 or make an appointment online.
Dental Health Services Victoria. Links between oral health and general health: the case for action [Online] 2011 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.dhsv.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/2515/links-between-oral-health-and-general-health-the-case-for-action.pdf
Healthdirect. Dental care [Online] 2017 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-care