Dental Health: Diseases Caused by Unhealthy Teeth and Gums

34 By: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD


Mouth Bacteria & Heart Problems

Can bacteria in your mouth contribute to heart disease and stroke? Some studies suggest so. They say these bacteria might damage the heart directly once they enter the bloodstream. An expert panel of heart doctors said in 2012 there wasn’t enough evidence to support this theory. More recently, heart clots from strokes have been discovered that provide evidence of associated mouth bacteria, suggesting good dental hygiene could protect your heart after all.

Gum Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes can make gum disease more severe, and it can make it harder for your body to heal from gum disease too. That’s because high glucose in your saliva can make it easier for bad bacteria to grow, causing plaque. And gum disease can make diabetes worse, too, as it can make it harder to control your blood sugar.

Tooth Decay and Dry Mouth

Your saliva flushes out food debris and bacteria throughout the day. It carries enzymes that break down bacteria. But dry mouth stops your saliva from doing its job of cleaning your mouth. This can lead to tooth decay.

Medication Causes Dry Mouth

Many commonly used drugs can cause dry mouth. These include both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines in these categories may cause dry mouth:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle Relaxants
  • Antihypertensives
  • Antipsychotics

Your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative medicine that does not leave your mouth feeling dry. Never quit a prescription without consulting your doctor first.

Stress Can Hurt Your Teeth

If you clench, brace, or grind your teeth, the reason is most likely to be stress. Stress sends the muscles of your body on high alert. This can contribute to teeth grinding.

Osteoporosis and Tooth Loss

Do you have osteoporosis? Weak, brittle bones are a problem for more than 54 million American adults, particularly as they get older. Older people may also face greater risks of tooth loss. One study found that molar teeth in particular may be lost in greater numbers in people with osteoporosis.

Pale Gums and Anemia

Anemia can make your skin pale. But pale skin may also be harmless. However, if you find that your gums are pale or white, this may be a symptom of iron deficiency anemia. Your gums become pale or white because fewer red blood cells are circulating in your blood.

Eating Disorders Erode Tooth Enamel

Tooth erosion seems to be an early and important sign of an eating disorder. Self-induced vomiting may wear away the tooth enamel over time. Dentists can be the first to spot this problem during a routine checkup.

Thrush and HIV

Thrush infections come from a fungus called Candida that can grow in your mouth, throat, and esophagus. It often grows in these places harmlessly, but may get out of control. For people with HIV/AIDS, thrush is one of the most common opportunistic infections.

Gum Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Joint pain and gum disease don’t seem to have much in common at first. But symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can appear in your mouth. The same bacterium that can make RA progress faster and become more severe is also the main culprit causing gum disease. Some people with RA develop Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that dries out the mouth and can lead to periodontal disease.

Tooth Loss and Kidney Disease

People who have lost many teeth may be more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. Scientists don’t know why, but since both kidney disease and periodontal disease are inflammatory conditions, the destructive power of inflammation may be to blame.

Gum Disease and Premature Birth

Pregnant women with inflamed gums from periodontal disease are more likely to give birth prematurely. They are also more likely to develop preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and can be life-threatening.

Signs of Healthy Teeth and Gums

Want a healthy mouth? Look for these signs that your teeth and gums are healthy:

  • Gums are pink and firm to the touch, and have a snug fit against your teeth.
  • Teeth are shiny, without breaks, and set firmly in place without wiggling.

Want to keep your mouth healthy? Visit your dentist on a regular basis, refrain from smoking, floss once a day or more, and brush your teeth twice a day or more.



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