You probably know by now that your oral health is connected to your overall health, but how deep does this connection go? Researchers have found that the bacteria and inflammation in your teeth and gums can link to heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
That’s right, dementia!
Sticky plaque made of bacteria on your teeth combines with the sugars in the foods and drinks you consume, releasing acids that attack your tooth enamel. Plaque buildup can also lead to gum disease and gingivitis, tender and swollen gums that sometimes bleed. If it progresses, severe periodontal (gum) disease can develop. Gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, allowing the bacteria to destroy the underlying bone supporting the teeth.
Scientists have found associations between periodontal disease and a number of other problems, including:
• Heart disease
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Premature birth or low birth weight
What’s behind the links? Experts can’t say for certain, but they believe that oral bacteria can escape into the bloodstream and damage major organs. The inflammation that comes from periodontal disease can contribute to heart disease.
Gum disease has also been found to increase the risk of dementia later in life. Researchers have found that periodontal problems may also be associated with milder cognitive impairment, such as memory problems, that make activities of daily life more difficult. In a recent study, participants who had the worst gum disease scored the lowest on memory tests and calculations.
As you age, it’s especially important to take care of your dental health and see the dentist regularly. Get more information on the special dental needs of seniors.