Good oral health has many benefits, not only for your mouth but your overall wellbeing too.

Taking good care of your oral health goes far beyond keeping your teeth and gums healthy.  It also improves your quality of life.

In recent years, poor oral health, specifically gum disease, has been linked with a number of general health conditions.

What problems could my oral health cause?

Problems which may be caused or made worse by poor oral health include:

  • Heart disease.

  • Strokes.

  • Diabetes.

  • Giving birth to a premature or low-birth-weight baby.

  • Respiratory (lung) disease.

How can the health of my mouth affect my heart?

People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery (heart) disease than people without gum disease.

When people have gum disease, it is thought that bacteria from the mouth can get into their bloodstream.  The bacteria produce protein.  This can then affect the heart by causing the platelets in the blood to stick together in the blood vessels of the heart.  This can make clots more likely to form.  Blood clots can reduce normal blood flow, so that the heart does not get all the nutrients and oxygen it needs.

If the blood flow is badly affected this could lead to a heart attack.

What is the link between gum disease and strokes?

Several studies have looked at the connection between mouth infections and strokes.

They have found that people who have had a stroke are more likely to have gum disease than people who have not had one.

How could diabetes affect my dental health?

People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than people without it.  This is probably because diabetics are more likely to get infections in general.  People who do not know they have diabetes, or whose diabetes is not under control, are especially at risk.

If you do have diabetes it is important that any gum disease is diagnosed, because it can increase your blood sugar. This would put you at risk of diabetic complications.

Also, if you are diabetic, you may find that you heal more slowly. If you have a problem with your gums, or have problems after visits to your dentist, discuss this with your dental team before you have any treatment.

New research has also shown that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have gum disease.

If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of losing teeth.

Could gum disease affect my unborn baby?

Pregnant women who have gum disease may be over three times more likely to have a baby that is premature and so has a low birth weight.  There is a one-in-four chance that a pregnant woman with gum disease will give birth before 35 weeks.

It is thought that gum disease may raise the levels of the chemicals that bring on labour.  Research also suggests that women whose gum disease gets worse during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.

Having gum disease treated properly during pregnancy can reduce the risk of a premature birth.

How could bacteria in the mouth affect my lungs?

Bacterial chest infections are thought to be caused by breathing in fine droplets from the throat and mouth into the lungs.  This can cause infections, such as pneumonia, or could make an existing condition worse.

People with gum disease have more bacteria in their mouths and may therefore be more likely to get chest infections.

This particularly affects frail, elderly people who may die from pneumonia caused by breathing in bacteria from their mouth.  Good oral hygiene for this group of people is therefore particularly important.

What signs should I look out for?

Visit your dental team if you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, which can include:

  • Inflammation of the gums, causing them to be red, swollen and to bleed easily, especially when brushing.
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth.
  • Bad breath.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Regular mouth infections. 

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