I'm a dentist and FIVE silent killers can strike if you don't look after your teeth | The Sun
POOR oral hygiene is not just unpleasant — it can cause serious health conditions.
Gum disease can lead to a range of deadly illnesses that affect your heart, brain and lungs, experts say.
Bacteria in your mouth that causes tooth decay can also get into your bloodstream, causing a host of problems for your body's organs.
Dr Nigel Carter, of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “Like the rest of the body, the mouth is loaded with bacteria, and while most bacteria are harmless, some can cause disease.
“Your body's natural defences and good daily oral hygiene, such as brushing and interdental cleaning, usually keep bacteria under control.
“However, without good oral care, bacteria can lead to diseases like tooth decay and gum disease.
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“It is the bacteria in the mouth, along with the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease, that might play a role in some diseases, including heart disease.”
People with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer coronary heart disease, which is suffered by around 2.3million Brits.
Bacteria in your mouth can produce proteins in your blood that cause blockages in your arteries, potentially leading to a heart attack.
Dr Carter said: “When people have gum disease, it is thought that bacteria from the mouth can get into their bloodstream. The bacteria produce protein.
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“This builds up as plaques in the arteries that can then break off causing obstruction of the arteries around the heart, leading to a heart attack.
“Blood clots can reduce normal blood flow, so that the heart does not get all the nutrients and oxygen it needs. If the blood flow is badly affected this could also lead to a heart attack.”
In a similar vein, mouth infections have been linked to strokes in several studies.
Like with the link to heart problems, gum disease increases your risk of the deadly condition two-fold.
Bleeding gums and inflammation can cause changes in how blood and oxygen gets to your brain.
Brits suffer around 100,000 strokes a year, according to the Stroke Association.
Dr Ben Atkins, a dentist in Manchester, said: “The link between poor oral health and strokes is very similar to that of heart attacks.
“As bacteria responsible for gum disease find their way into the bloodstream, protein levels rise.
“This elevation can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels which is usually a good indicator that a person might be at higher risk of having a stroke.”
Gum disease is more likely in people with diabetes and vice versa.
People with diabetes suffer more infections in general and those who do not know they have the disease are particularly vulnerable.
Dr Carter said: “If you do have diabetes, it is important that any gum disease is diagnosed, because it can lead to poor blood sugar control.
“This would put you at risk of diabetic complications.
“New research has also shown that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have gum disease.
“If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of losing teeth.”
Pregnant women with gum disease are more than three times more likely to have a baby that is either premature or has a low birth weight.
Giving birth before 35 weeks happens in one in four pregnant women with the disease.
Dr Atkins said: “It is thought that gum disease may raise the levels of the chemicals that bring on labour.
“Research also suggests that women whose gum disease gets worse during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.
“Having gum disease treated properly during pregnancy can reduce the risk of a premature birth.”
Chest infection can be caused by breathing in droplets containing bacteria from the the mouth and throat into the lungs.
This can lead to deadly pneumonia or make existing lung conditions worse.
Dr Carter said: “People with gum disease have more bacteria in their mouths and may therefore be more likely to get chest infections.
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“This particularly affects frail, elderly people who may die from pneumonia caused by breathing in bacteria from their mouth.
“Good oral hygiene for this group of people is therefore particularly important.”
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