We might think of our body and oral health as separate battlefields, but the truth is that they are more connected than you might think. We understand now that there is a connection between gum disease and heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. For example, the same bacteria that causes gum disease, Streptococcus mutans, has also been found in arterial plaque—suggesting it may enter the blood stream via bleeding gums and travel to other parts of the body. Gum disease aside, there are other health problems that can contribute to dental cavities and inflamed gums. Medical conditions that jeopardize your oral health are so common that you probably currently know someone who is affected.
Dr. Gary Nack can help you monitor your health conditions and help prevent them from harming your teeth and gums. Dr. Nack serves patients in the 18966 and surrounding zip codes. Call our Holland, PA dental office at 215-364-6540 to make an appointment with Dr. Nack.
If you have a condition from this list, speak with Dr. Nack to understand the risks to your oral health and the best way to prevent cavities. In many cases, there are preventive treatments that may reduce the potential damage. At the very least, you can increase the frequency of your dental visits so we can keep a better eye on your teeth.
Most people with diabetes control their blood sugar with the help of medication. However, when blood sugar is not adequately controlled, high glucose levels in saliva may actually cause mouth bacteria to thrive. This means more plaque and tartar on the teeth and more inflammation in the gums. When gums become inflamed, this type of infection can make it harder to control blood sugar levels.
Both hyper- and hypothyroidism can lead to oral health problems. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing the hormone thyroxine, which regulates metabolism. An overactive or underactive thyroid can affect our bodies’ systemic response to bacteria, and manifest itself in gum inflammation and fast-moving tooth decay.
Acid Reflux Disorder
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition in which stomach acids travel up the esophagus. Not everyone who experiences heartburn has GERD, but diagnoses have increased in recent years as more and more sufferers seek treatment. Aside from causing pain in the esophagus, stomach acids also migrate into the back of the mouth. You may not be aware this is happening because saliva dilutes the acid, but its constant presence is enough to erode your enamel, leaving molars especially vulnerable to “top-down” decay.
In addition to wreaking havoc on the body, eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, also contribute to oral health problems. To start with, if you are not getting the nutrition you need, you will not have the minerals needed to support healthy gums and teeth. Sores and lesions in the mouth are also common when a person is malnourished. Bulimia is particularly damaging to enamel, as frequent vomiting brings your teeth in contact with corrosive stomach acids. As enamel erodes, cavities form with less resistance and decay spreads more quickly than in healthy mouths. Other eating disorders have uniquely negative effects on the mouth, as well. Overeating, or compulsive eating, can contribute to cavities in the sense that more food passing through the mouth equals more plaque and tartar accumulating on the teeth.
Pregnancy and Menopause
For women, hormonal changes accompany all stages of our lives. Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can all affect the chemistry of our mouths and the pH level of your saliva. During menopause, dropping estrogen levels can lead to dry mouth (see below) which has a devastating effect on your teeth. During pregnancy, gums are quick to swell and bleed, which may make it difficult to floss away plaque well enough to prevent cavities. Those who vomit frequently due to morning sickness are at risk of enamel erosion, which can weaken the teeth and encourage decay.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
While not an illness per se, teeth grinding and jaw clenching can lead to worn down, cracked teeth. Structural damage to enamel can open the door to the bacteria that cause cavities. Bruxism is frequently a symptom of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, but can happen in its absence, as well. If you suspect you grind or clench your jaw when you sleep, Dr. Nack can make a customized mouth guard to prevent you from damaging your teeth at night.
Dry Mouth – A Side Effects of Medication
We don’t think about it every day, but saliva is nature’s greatest defense against cavities. When we are awake, our salivary glands are constantly producing saliva to neutralize bacteria and lubricate the mouth. Saliva production slows at night when we sleep, and the effect on bacterial growth is most noticeable with “morning breath.” When you don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, you lose your natural protection against the bacteria that cause cavities, making your enamel more vulnerable to decay.
If you think you’ll never have to worry about dry mouth, think again! This condition is most frequently a side effect of medication, and is listed in the precautions for more than 400 commonly used medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. If you ever find yourself taking medication for a chronic condition, there’s a good chance that medication may be on that list.
Do you need a general dentist to help you maintain good oral health? Dr. Nack serves patients in the 18966 and surrounding zip codes. Call our Holland, PA dental office at 215-364-6540 to make an appointment with Dr. Nack.