There are multiple ways in which your mouth and the rest of your body are related in regard to medical conditions. Your mouth functions as a kind of "early warning system" where (via saliva samples) many system-wide diseases can be detected in their early stages. This is true of diabetes, for example. In fact, some 90% of system-wide diseases produce in-mouth symptoms or bacteria build-up that allow for earlier detection.
When you have a debilitating disease or condition, it will lower your overall immune system strength, which can lead to increased bacteria in the mouth. In this way, other conditions can cause oral health problems. Poor oral hygiene and especially gum disease can lead to harmful pathogens entering the bloodstream from the mouth. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum (periodontal) disease, periodontitis the next, and "trench mouth" the most severe. Each successive stage increases the danger of your mouth infecting another part of your body.
The Dangers of Poor Oral Health
Understanding the general connection between mouth and body is one thing, but what about specific conditions and diseases that cavities, periodontal disease, and other mouth problems can lead to?
Here are some of the most serious conditions that are associated with compromised oral health:
- Cardiovascular disease: Many times, when your immune system is already weakened, oral problems lead to heart problems (or further complicate them). Your risk of heart attack and stroke increases. Infective endocarditis involves mouth-sourced bacteria clinging to heart valves. The negative effects to the heart of an infected mouth are many.
- Diabetes: Mouth conditions are not likely to cause diabetes, but they can interfere with insulin and blood-sugar regulation, making your diabetes more difficult to control. To make matters worse, diabetes itself increases the chances of getting gum disease or an oral infection.
- Osteoporosis: Many believe there is a connection between weakened jaw bones stemming from tooth loss, which often stems from periodontal disease, and osteoporosis. The medications used to treat osteoporosis also pose a small risk of weakening jaw bones.
- Premature births: Periodontitis increases your chances of having a premature birth or a low-weight birth. Harmful bacteria from the infected gums are believed to reach the unborn child, after entering the mother's bloodstream, and interfere with normal development. Plus, infections can lead to early production of natural labor inducing hormones.
- Other conditions: Alzheimer's, AIDS, and some forms of cancer also have a connection with poor oral health. Many times, the influence is two-way, and negative in both directions. The condition is exacerbated by mouth bacteria, while that same condition leads to oral lesions or other in-mouth health problems.