Dental Health: Diseases Caused by Unhealthy Teeth and Gums

Can bacteria in your mouth contribute to heart disease and stroke?

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.

High glucose in your saliva can make it easier for bad bacteria to grow, causing plaque.

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.

Your saliva flushes out food debris and bacteria throughout the day.

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.

Drymouth can be caused by the medications that you take, like antihistamines and decongestants.

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.

If you clench, brace, or grind your teeth, the reason is most likely to be stress.

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 can cause tooth loss and the rare, serious condition known as osteonecrosis.

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.

Anemia can make your skin pale. But pale skin may also be harmless.

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.

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.

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 infections come from a fungus called Candida that can grow in your mouth, throat, and esophagus.

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.

Rheumatoid arthritis makes your chances for developing gum disease significantly higher.

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.

Taking care of your teeth may prevent the development of chronic kidney problems.

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.

Pregnant mothers have a higher risk of early pregnancy if they have gum disease.

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.

Keep your gums healthy by brushing, flossing, visiting the dentist, and avoiding tobacco.

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.

Sources:

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

  1. 3D4Medical.com and Oxford Scientific (OSF)
  2. Photo courtesy of Dr. Marcus Whitmore / planodental.com
  3. James Stevenson / Photo Researchers, Inc.
  4. Simon Songhurst/ Stone
  5. Photo courtesy of Dr. Marcus Whitmore / planodental.com
  6. CNRI / Photo Researchers, Inc.
  7. Rosseforp /Photolibrary
  8. Courtesy of Dr. Brian McKay / acld.com
  9. Dr. P. Marazzi / Photo Researchers, Inc.
  10. Keith Brofsky/ Photodisc
  11. Medicimage/Photolibrary
  12. Image100/Photolibrary
  13. Thinkstock

REFERENCES:

  • American Heart Association: "Mouth bacteria found in stroke patients' brains. What does it mean?"
  • NIH/NIDDKD: "Diabetes, Gum Disease, & Other Dental Problems."
  • NIH Medline Plus Magazine: "5 common questions about dry mouth."
  • Colorado State University Vivo Pathophysiology: "Salivary Glands and Saliva."
  • Contemporary Clinical Dentistry: "Drug induced xerostomia in elderly individuals: An institutional study."
  • Johns Hopkins Sjögren’s Center: "Management of Dry Mouth."
  • Biomed Res Int: "Psychosocial Aspects of Bruxism: The Most Paramount Factor Influencing Teeth Grinding."
  • British Dentistry Journal: "Tooth loss and osteoporosis: to assess the association between osteoporosis status and tooth number."
  • National Osteoporosis Foundation: "What Is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?"
  • Journal of Science Technology Investigation: "A review on anemia--Types, causes, symptoms, and their treatment."
  • Virginia Commonwealth University USHS Fact Sheet: "Iron Deficiency Anemia."/li>
  • Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC: "What is Tooth Erosion? Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment."
  • PLoS One: "Tooth Erosion and Eating Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis."
  • The Journal of Infectious Diseases: "Incidence of AIDS-Defining Opportunistic Infections in a Multicohort Analysis of HIV-infected Persons in the United States and Canada, 2000–2010."
  • Curr Opin Rheumatol: "Periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis: the evidence accumulates for complex pathobiologic interactions."
  • Johns Hopkins Rheumatology: "Gum disease linked to rheumatoid arthritis."
  • National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society: "Gum Disease."
  • American Academy of Periodontology: "Researchers Caution That Tooth Loss May Increase Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease in U.S. Adults."
  • J Nat Sci Biol Med: "Periodontitis: A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants."
  • Obstet Gynecol: "Maternal periodontal disease is associated with an increased risk for preeclampsia," "Periodontal disease and upper genital tract inflammation in early spontaneous preterm birth," "Progressive periodontal disease and risk of very preterm delivery."
  • University of the Pacific Arthur A Dugoni School of Dentistry: “What is a Healthy Mouth?”
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information