In an article at Medical News Today, we learn about past and ongoing research that has led researchers to conclude that oral health is far more important than even your dentist may have believed. In fact, a range of studies offers increasing proof that the health of your mouth has a direct effect on the health of the rest of your body; from your brain to your heart to your gut.
Gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease
In a series of studies from the US and the UK, researchers found not only a significant decrease in cognitive function among patients with gum disease, but that the bacteria that is known to cause gum disease may be “motile”, or capable of movement through the body, as this bacteria had been found in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
While it has been known for years that oral infections can lead to other problems in the body, for example that a burst abscess can require emergency care, the startling discovery of the direct link between oral health and brain health is a revelation.
Periodontitis and pancreatic cancer
While not yet certain of the causal link between the two, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health “found that men with a history of gum disease had a 64% increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared with men who had never had gum disease.”
The question remains open as to whether gum disease leads to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer or if the cancer leads to an increased risk of periodontitis and tooth loss. However, ongoing research has definitely shown a link between the two.
Gum disease and heart disease
Bleeding gums, or the aforementioned burst abscess, leads to a significant risk of heart disease, as researchers from the United Kingdom and Ireland discovered in a 2008 study. In such cases, “bacteria from the mouth is able to enter the bloodstream and stick to platelets, which can then form blood clots, interrupting the flow of blood to the heart and triggering a heart attack,” the study found.
Naming the mouth the perhaps “dirtiest place in the human body,” Dr. Steve Kerrigan from the Royal College of Surgeons, explained that there are up to 700 different types of bacteria in our mouths at any one time. Bacterial infections that reach the bloodstream can attach to the platelets and create blood clots, or make them difficult for antibiotics to attack.
Needless to say, the evidence is becoming clearer than ever before that maintaining a healthy mouth has far more significance than being able to chew the food you like most, or preserving a pretty smile.
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