For historical reasons, dentistry is separated off from general practice. It’s a field of medicine all by itself, out in the ether, cut off from the rest of the medical world like a banished treasonous aristocrat in medieval England.
As a result, people now think of their dental health as somehow being separate from the health of the rest of their body, as if it is a different thing entirely.
What’s so strange about this attitude is that it doesn’t apply to any other part of the body. If you’ve got an infection in your finger, you understand that it can develop into something nasty and that you need antibiotics. It’s something that can potentially affect your whole body, especially if it progresses to sepsis.
But the same cannot be said of dental health. Dental health is, for many people, wholly contained in the mouth and can never affect other parts of the body.
Unfortunately, science has shown in recent years that the notion that poor dental health has no knock-on effects elsewhere in the body is a myth. Here’s why.
One of the reasons that dentists, like SDG Dental, provide emergency dental services is that they understand how damaging things like toothache can be to the heart. It turns out that the same bacterial inflammation in the gum that is causing the toothache gets into the bloodstream and then travels to the arteries close to the heart. Once it gets there, it can cause atherosclerosis, the hardening of the artery walls.
If the arteries are exposed to bacteria from the mouth for long enough, large plaques can build up and thicken, reducing the flow of blood to the heart. Over time, the heart has to work harder and harder to do the same work, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
What’s more, the actual heart itself can become infected by bacteria from the mouth, damaging its lining and causing potentially life-threatening scarring.
One of the types of bacteria that can affect the gums and teeth is gingivitis. This bacteria can escape the mouth and enter the nerve channels or the bloodstream and go up to the brain. According to some experts, this can then lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to the fact that it is difficult for the body to remove dead bacteria tissue from the brain. Instead, plaques build up that can impair thinking in old age.
Most people with diabetes think that the only thing that affects their insulin sensitivity is sugar in their diet. But this is a gross simplification. The ability to assimilate sugar into the cell is also partly determined by the overall level of inflammation in the cell. The more inflamed a cell is, the less sensitive to insulin it becomes.
Bacteria from the mouth can dramatically reduce insulin sensitivity once they get into the bloodstream because of the fact that they cause inflammation in other parts of the body. If you’re diabetic, this means that you’ll have to take larger doses of insulin to have the same effect.
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