How Chronic Illnesses Can Affect Oral Health
Woman taking care of dental health by brushing teeth.
Oral Health and Overall Health
Did you know that the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body are connected? In fact, there is a bidirectional relationship between chronic illness and oral health. Some chronic diseases are directly associated with oral health issues, either causing or being caused by them. In other cases, there’s an indirect relationship, or shared risk factors. Let’s take a look at how chronic illnesses can affect oral health.
Chronic Diseases are Leading Causes of Death and Disability
Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, cancers, and obesity can all be linked with poor oral health. Because oral health conditions are often chronic, they can happen alongside other chronic conditions. Unfortunately, people with more than one chronic condition tend to have worse long-term health outcomes than those who only have one chronic condition. Prevention is the key to good health, and maintaining good oral health care can help prevent chronic diseases or improve the outcome for those who suffer from them.
Preventing Gum Disease Can Improve Health
Gum disease is very common, affecting about 75 percent of adults in the United States. If left untreated, gum disease can advance and increase the risk of serious health issues, like diabetes, heart disease/stroke, lupus, oral cancer, organ transplant, and rheumatoid arthritis. Fortunately, when detected early, gum disease can be reversed through good oral hygiene and regular dental care.
How Different Conditions are Connected
- Diabetes, periodontal disease, and tooth decay are interconnected. Though more research is needed, there is evidence to suggest that periodontal disease and tooth decay can exacerbate type 2 and gestational diabetes. This probably occurs because these conditions increase inflammation and blood sugar levels. By the same token, people who have diabetes are at higher risk of infections that can cause tooth decay and periodontal disease.
- Oral health issues may be associated with heart disease. Studies show that periodontal disease and tooth decay may increase a person’s risk of heart disease, or worsen existing heart conditions, by causing inflammation and damaging blood vessels.
- Tooth decay and periodontal disease may be associated with respiratory disease. There are studies that suggest that by causing an increase in bacteria, periodontal disease and tooth decay can increase the risk of respiratory conditions, including emphysema, pneumonia, and COPD, due to bacteria from the mouth colonizing in the respiratory tract. People at highest risk include older people, those who wear dentures, and people with decreased immune system function.
- Periodontal disease and tooth decay may be linked to some cancers. Even after controlling for other risk factors, like smoking and diet, there is evidence to suggest that oral health problems may be connected to cancers like lung, pancreatic, and head/neck cancers. In one study, a 35 percent increased risk for blood cancer and 21 percent increased risk for cancer in general for men with periodontal disease, and another suggests that there is also a 63 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Still another study suggests a 43 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer and a 52 percent higher risk of stomach cancer for those with periodontal disease, as compared to people with healthy gums.
- Obesity may increase the risk of oral health issues. The result of preliminary research on obesity and oral health speculates that secretions from adipose tissue increase the risk of inflammation, decreasing immunity as well as blood flow to the gums.
Talk to Your Dentist About Your Medications
Sometimes, the drugs prescribed for chronic illnesses can cause side effects that impact their oral health. For instance, swollen and bleeding gums, along with dry mouth can be side effects of medications for hypertension and heart conditions. Some drugs for high blood pressure can cause gum overgrowth, which can lead to decay and progressive gum disease. Because inflamed gums bleed easily, there is also a risk for ulceration and soreness. Other medications for hypertension can reduce saliva production, putting patients at risk for dry mouth and tooth decay. Heart medications like anticoagulants and blood thinners can raise a patient’s risk for prolonged bleeding, and can cause gums to bleed during brushing. There is also a risk, with these medications, of post-extraction bleeding or bleeding during cleaning. Your dentist might want to talk to your doctor about changing your medication.
Partner with Park 56 for a Healthy Mouth
If you’re looking for a dentist in New York, why not choose the dentist voted best in the city? At Park 56 Dental Group, we offer pediatric, prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, Invisalign®, emergency, and sedation dentistry, all at the highest level of treatment. We serve the Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, and all surrounding Manhattan and New York areas, with a patient-centered practice that has hours to fit your schedule. Schedule your complimentary consultation today by contacting us online or calling us at (212) 826-2322.
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