May is Family Wellness Month and it is important to note that your family’s overall health may be impacted by maintaining good oral health. You probably don’t think of dental care being related to respiratory illness, blood sugar levels or Alzheimer’s disease, but health studies say otherwise. In fact, research shows that bacteria from tooth decay and gum disease raises the risk of developing many diseases. Everyday activities – such as eating, chewing and tooth brushing – and dental treatments like filling cavities, allow bacteria in the mouth to spread to the bloodstream easily, according to the American Dental Association. And there’s plenty of evidence to back up the negative results of not taking care of your teeth properly.
For instance, recent studies on obesity and high cholesterol – both health issues that are connected to heart disease – have found links to gum disease. Published in the journal General Dentistry, the results of the obesity study caused researchers to add the weight disorder to the list of risk factors that may cause people to have gum disease.
Links to many ailments
The American Heart Association has found that periodontal and heart diseases have similar risk factors such as smoking, age and diabetes. Although the AHA has contended the dental link to heart problems is inconclusive, it continues to advise people to take care of their oral health as part of a heart-healthy regimen. Dental problems have also been connected to nutritional deficiencies, blood disorders, impaired immunity and bacterial pneumonia. Periodontitis, the most severe level of gum disease, has been shown to increase the risk of a pregnant woman delivering a baby prematurely or a full-term baby having low birth weight.Another health concern related to dental care is respiratory illness. When high levels of bacteria are allowed to fester in the mouth, they can travel down the throat and into the lungs and create conditions that make breathing difficult. In the worst case scenario, illnesses such as pneumonia may result.
New Alzheimer’s research
If there are elderly members in your family, one new study by scientists at theUniversity of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry is of particular importance. Researches there isolated the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is associated with gum disease, in brain cells donated by people who have dementia.The research team determined that when P. gingivalis reaches the brain, it triggers the immune system to release chemicals that can kill neurons. That can lead to changes in the brain that are typical of Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized in part by mental confusion and deteriorating memory.
Strong diabetes connection
For anyone in your family who’s age 40 or older, regular dental exams are especially important for those with diabetes. When gingivitis, the most common form of gum disease, evolves into the more serious periodontitis, there is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and exacerbating an existing case. While this form of diabetes can be regulated with a healthy diet and medication, people with advanced gum disease have to monitor their sugar intake to make sure it doesn’t create unhealthy glucose levels.High sugar levels compromise one’s immune system and the ability to fight infections, including oral disease. To be on the safe side, carefully monitor family members for conditions that include tooth sensitivity and decay, dry mouth and delayed healing of mouth sores.
For people who have no dental insurance or have difficult meeting the high cost of insurance premiums, good dental care may be hard to fit into the family budget.One alternative that’s more affordable is a dental savings plan that provides many dentistry services at greatly reduced prices.