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Why dental health is more important than you think

How dental health is linked to overall health

Photo Credit: Flickr/Seth Lemmons

Why dental health is more important than you think

By Carolyn Hauck on February 17, 2015

While the dentist waves you on your way reminding you to brush and floss 2-3 times a day, mounting research on the link between dental health and overall health are bringing the recommendation from doctors as well.

It’s been known for a while that high-risk populations are more susceptible to oral health issues. For instance, people who deal with diabetes, HIV, pancreatic cancer, heart disease or are pregnant and suffer from periodontal (gum) disease can be susceptible to the bacteria that can enter the bloodstream from gums that are inflamed and bleeding. This is because these populations tend to have weakened or lower functioning immune systems that can’t fight the bacteria as well as high functioning, healthy immune systems. Bacteria in the blood vessels can ultimately lead to blockages, which can lead to heart disease and strokes. In pregnant woman, the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream can lead to pre-term labor and low birth weight.

However the research continues to grow on the link between inflammation in the body and systemic diseases, according to Dr. Bornfeld, a dentist on JustAnswer. He explains that while the research is still inconclusive on direct causation between inflammation in the mouth and disease in other parts of the body, it’s becoming conventional wisdom that inflammation anywhere in the body increases the risk of disease.

This is why is recent years there’s been a rise in attention to healthy gums as well as healthy teeth. Deep cleanings—which remove plaque from harder to reach areas in the gums—are becoming more routine procedures as the dental and medical communities increasingly find links between inflamed gums and disease in other parts of the body. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also found a link between improved oral health and a decrease in respiratory infections.

Worried about gum disease? A dentist on JustAnswer can talk with you about the symptoms and what you can do.