They say the mouth is the window to the body. All sorts of health concerns exhibit symptoms in the mouth: diabetes and celiac disease to name two. You may wonder then, if certain diseases can be detected in our mouth, is it also possible to prevent certain illnesses by taking better care of our teeth? Researchers think so, and they’re hard at work trying to find out which diseases a little flossing might help prevent.
Endocarditis: This rare infection of the valves and lining of the heart muscle can be fatal if treatment is not successful, so you can imagine why preventing it in the first place is the preferred course of action. Patients with heart conditions will always want to keep their doctor informed of their condition so as to properly prepare before and after any appointment. Because bacteria in the mouth can be released into the bloodstream during an appointment and infect the heart in at-risk patients, it’s best to maintain an open line of communication with your doctor, and keep as clean a mouth as you can.
Pregnancy and Birth: Generally speaking, dental work can be safely performed through the first half of the third trimester, but earlier is always better – preferably before pregnancy. The American Dental Association has pointed to research linking premature birth and low birth weight to women with periodontitis (gum disease), so you’ll want to schedule a full check-up early.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease with tentacles. Since it touches and degrades so many aspects of a person’s physical health, it becomes difficult to be mindful of all its complications without proper vigilance. Yet, vigilance is precisely what is needed, particularly with regard to its role in a healthy mouth, because having diabetes can not only lead to oral disease, but the presence of oral disease can also aggravate diabetes. When it comes to diabetes and the mouth, it is unfortunately, as the scientific community calls it, a “two way street.”
Colon Cancer: You may not think to link a healthy mouth with a healthy colon, but researchers at Case Western Reserve University have done just that – linking the oral bacteria Fusobacterium nucleatum, and colon cancer. Their research suggests this bacterium has the ability to “turn on tumor growth in the colon” a discovery that may lead to early detection for at-risk patients.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Research suggests treating acute cases of periodontitis can reduce the discomfort associated with rheumatoid arthritis – time to schedule a visit to the dentist!
Diseases of the Heart and Brain: Lastly, you may have heard poor oral health habits are linked to diseases of the heart and brain. For the full scoop, read our articles on the connection to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.