Improving Your Smile can also Improve Your Health

At Laurelhurst Dentistry, our committed staff or oral health professionals strive to help every patient enjoy the very best smile possible. From our staff of friendly and professional oral hygienists to our highly experienced dentists, every member of our team remains dedicated to the health of our patients’ teeth and gums. We understand the importance a great looking smile has on not only your appearance, but your overall health as well.

While most patients understand the importance practicing quality oral hygiene at home has on protecting their teeth and gums, many don’t know the vital role strong oral health plays in maintaining their overall health. In recent years, a number of studies have found strong connections between a person’s oral health and their risk of developing a number of chronic diseases.

Oral Health and Heart Disease

While some dissention exists in the medical community on the relationship between heart disease and oral health, studies have found links between the two conditions that suggest a possible connection.

A study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association that examined 657 individuals without a history of heart disease found that participants who had higher levels of a specific disease-causing oral bacteria were more likely to experience atherosclerosis, a condition commonly referred to as “hardening of the arteries.”

Atherosclerosis develops when deposits of fats and other substances in the blood begin to stick to the sides of arteries. These deposits, referred to as plaque, can build up in the arteries, causing them to narrow and prevent blood flow. Should arterial plaque ever block flood flow entirely, you may suffer a stroke or heart attack, depending on the location of the blockage.

While arterial plaque and dental plaque- a mixture of bacteria and lingering food particles- vary, some experts believe the two may share a connection. One theory states, that harmful oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through cuts in the gums where it then travels throughout the body. When harmful bacteria travels throughout the body it triggers inflammation, which may cause swelling to occur that narrows arteries and increases your risk of clotting, according to researchers.

More study is needed to conclusively proof a link between oral health and heart disease. However, the evidence that currently exists suggests that reducing dental plaque in the mouth by brushing and flossing daily could help to lower your risk of heart disease. At the very least, it couldn’t hurt.

Oral Health and Diabetes

Untreated gum disease can destroy your teeth and gums, and leave you dealing with a lifetime of oral health concerns. Gingivitis and the more serious periodontitis cause the gums to become red, swollen, tender, inflamed, and to bleed easily. When left untreated, periodontitis can permanently destroy gum tissue and the foundation of your teeth, which is why gum disease ranks as the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.

Emerging research has found a compelling link exists between periodontal disease and diabetes. Studies have shown that not only do individuals with diabetes have a higher risk of developing gum disease, but that gum disease also makes it more difficult for them to control their blood sugar levels, thus exacerbating their diabetes. Research also suggests that individuals with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing other oral health issues, as well.

Oral Health and Obesity

According to studies conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Puerto Rico, individuals who meet the criteria for obesity were 29 percent more likely to develop gum disease when compared to those who were not obese. Emerging evidence continues to support the theory that obesity it linked with chronic inflammation, which can cause the body to produce hormones that increase an individual’s risk of periodontal disease.

Eating a balanced diet can help to lower the amount of sugar you consume daily, while eating more fruits and vegetables can also help to remove harmful bacteria from your teeth that contribute to decay and gum disease. Consuming less sugar will also help reduce weight gain, preventing the onset of obesity and an increased risk of developing gum disease.

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