As science and medicine evolve, we are beginning to get a clearer look at just how interconnected the body really is. Yes, most people understand that the body is interconnected on a rudimentary level, but you might be surprised to learn that problems in your mouth can factor into serious health problems of the heart and brain.
The mouth is the central area by which nutrients, substances, and bacteria enter the body and therefore the bloodstream. We should be looking at the health of the teeth and periodontal structures supporting them not as isolated areas with strictly local concerns but rather, like everything in nature, as part of an interconnected system – that system being the entire body.
How Periodontal Disease Is Linked To Heart Disease
Periodontal disease, also commonly referred to as simply “gum disease”, is an inflammation of the gums as a result of plaque build up. The beginning stage of periodontal disease is called “gingivitis”, which is reversible and usually painless. Symptoms include:
- Gum discoloration (usually red or purple)
- Excessive bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Receding gum line
Gingivitis is usually painless, however, if it advances to periodontitis, the condition can be painful and incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. Symptoms of periodontitis include:
- Pain when brushing, flossing, or chewing
- Plaque build up on the teeth
- Pronounced gum line recession to the point that the teeth become loose or shift position
- Tooth loss
The main culprit in almost all dental problems is plaque – the sticky, fuzzy substances that builds up on your teeth when you go long periods of time without brushing. Plaque is comprised of bacteria and acids that eat away at the teeth and gums.
Plaque is also the main factor of concern in heart disease, and when your gums are bleeding excessively, that plaque has a direct route into the bloodstream and therefore into the heart.
More and more research is revealing the links between periodontal disease and heart disease. One study in particular revealed that people who had successful treatments for periodontal disease ended up spending 10 to 40 percent less on cardiovascular care costs than those who didn’t get adequate oral care.
The American Heart Association has also acknowledged a relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease. Much of this is due to gum inflammation and plaque leading to the narrowing of various arteries in the heart.
How Tooth Decay Is Linked To Stroke
Tooth decay and stroke are possibly linked because of the type of bacteria commonly found in plaque – Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria naturally lives in the mouth and forms plaque when combined with carbohydrates from food.
Hemorrhagic stroke patients have also been found to have higher than average amounts of this bacteria in their saliva compared to other patients who suffered from different forms of stroke. Streptococcus mutans is also associated with CMBs (cerebral microbleeds). CMBs are small brain hemorrhages that can cause dementia. Those who suffered from CMBs were also found to have higher than average amounts of Streptococcus mutans in their saliva.
Dental decay progresses along the following steps:
- Plaque begins to build up in the mouth if you fail to brush and floss regularly.
- The acidic plaque starts to eat away at the tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of the tooth. The enamel can be naturally replaced with improved diet and dental hygiene, but failing that, dental decay moves to the next stage.
- Plaque starts to eat away at the dentin, the second layer of the tooth. This is the hard, bony layer of the tooth. Once a hole is worn away in the dentin, you officially have a cavity. There is no natural way of replacing dentin – a dental filling will have to be put in place.
- If the cavity is left to fester, plaque will eventually begin eating away at the tooth pulp – the soft, fleshy tissue in the tooth’s center. It contains the tooth nerve and is kept alive via blood vessels from the gums. When the tooth pulp becomes infected and inflamed, the condition is called “pulpitis”, which is far more painful than a mere cavity.
- The tooth pulp will begin to swell, but the swelling becomes suppressed by the surrounding dentin. Thus the pressure is focused downward, cutting off the blood supply to the pulp and tooth nerve. Eventually, the tooth nerve begins to die.
- Finally, an abscess forms. An abscess is an inflamed pocket of pus that generally resembles a pimple. It usually appears at the gum line. The abscess is filled with bacteria, specifically Streptococcus mutans.
The bacteria in the abscess has access to the bloodstream and thus Streptococcus mutans bacteria can begin traveling into various blood vessels in the body. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain rupture, causing internal bleeding. This is the link between dental decay and hemorrhagic stroke.
How Your Rigby Dentist At Cedar Creek Dental Can Help
Your Rigby dentist at Cedar Creek Dental can help you avoid serious health problems with the right dental care. Here are some of the services we provide that can help with various stages of dental decay and periodontal disease.
During the first stage of dental decay where plaque is beginning to eat its way through the enamel, a simple dental cleaning can go a long way. After that, improved dental health and hygiene is the best step you can take to keep dental decay from occurring.
If dental decay has reached the second stage and has created a cavity, we provide white fillings to solve the problem. Our fillings are a great step up from amalgam fillings because they don’t contain any mercury – a toxic heavy metal. They also look and feel just like natural teeth.
If pulpitis has occurred, we can perform a root canal. Contrary to popular belief, root canals don’t have to be a terrible experience. We make them easy at our relaxing Rigby dental clinic.
We provide various non-surgical periodontal disease treatment options at our dental clinic in Rigby. These include scaling and root planing, removing dangerous toxins that tend to cluster in pockets with this disease. We can also provide host modulation, a method of altering the bacterial host properties and diminishing your mouth’s hospitality to the dangerous toxins involved with periodontal disease.
Remember, in the early stage of periodontal disease (gingivitis), the problem can be reversed and cured. However, in the later stages that may require surgical intervention, we recommend the more advanced treatments you can get from a licensed periodontist.