The importance of oral health has risen in recent years with more awareness that its effects don't end with the mouth. Studies have found a strong association between declining oral health and underlying health conditions. It has been found that a healthy mouth can help maintain a healthy body and the other way around. Germs can spread from your oral cavity to your bloodstream and sometimes cause life-threatening infections.
Most dental and oral problems can be diagnosed during a dental exam. Most of them can be prevented with proper oral hygiene. Germs like bacteria, viruses and fungi naturally occur in your mouth as its natural flora. Still, diets rich in sugar and acids, unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking, poor brushing, hormonal changes, acid reflux and other factors can cause disease in your gums.
Gum diseases and beyond
Bacteria thrive in plaques that harden and move down in your teeth if you don't brush or floss routinely. This can lead to inflammation of the gums and pus pockets might even develop in the advanced stages of the disease. Gradually these diseases can weaken the support structures of teeth. The advanced stage gum disease is clinically called periodontitis and interestingly, this condition has been associated with the development of other diseases like Alzheimer's, cancer and respiratory illnesses.
Some studies have shown a connection between periodontal diseases with decreased cognitive function. Some studies suggest that cognitive decline in older people might have something to do with the loss of teeth. Researchers have also associated poor gum health with the buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain which is a neurological sign of Alzheimer's.
Similarly, studies have suggested that inflammation in the gums can escalate into cardiovascular inflammation. A possible explanation is the bacteria in your oral cavity that might enter the blood and reach distant destinations such as the heart and cause inflammation.
Gum diseases have also been associated with a slightly increased in cancer development, significantly pancreatic cancer.
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Gum diseases and psychological health
While gum diseases are being studied to affect the neurological and mental health of a person, the relationship can be reversed. Many mental illnesses can adversely affect oral hygiene and can lead to tooth decay and other dental disorders. Studies have shown that people suffering from mental disorders such as depression often neglect dental care and might end up having gum disease and tooth decay. People suffering from anxiety might develop some form of dental phobia and might not visit dentists regularly. People suffering from eating disorders can experience dental erosion from the acid released during regular vomiting. Those who suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder might end up hurting their enamel due to overbrushing.