Though not 100 per cent proven, there have been studies that suggest that gum health may be related to brain health. “It is thought that inflammation of the gums can contribute to inflammation of the tissues of the central nervous system, causing nerve cells to degenerate,” Dr Liew explains.
Most of the studies conducted on older adults showed that those with periodontal disease had slower response, poorer coordination and weaker memory, although more research is currently being done to understand this better.
It’s important to know that poor oral health does not cause cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory infection and Alzheimer’s disease – getting your teeth and gums back on track will not cure you of these health conditions. “But it will reduce the risk of you developing or worsening the conditions of the various diseases,” says Dr Leo.
Floss and brush twice a day for at least two minutes, Dr Liew advises. And reduce the amount of sweet and acidic foods you eat – they can promote tooth decay. Don’t put off visiting your dentist at least twice a year to detect problems before it’s too late. “Poor oral health can lead to gingivitis (gum inflammation) and if left untreated, can progress to periodontitis (gum inflammation and bone loss),” says Dr Liew. The bacteria and viruses present in your mouth may then cause infection, inflammation and even blockage of blood vessels and tissues in the heart.
“Studies have also shown that an individual with gum disease has twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack compared to an individual who does not have the disease,” Dr Leo adds.
If you have an existing heart condition, you might also be at risk of developing endocarditis, an infection that causes inflammation of the inner lining of your heart. “It occurs when bacteria from another part of the body, such as the mouth, spreads through the bloodstream and clings to the damaged areas of the heart,” she explains. The bacteria can get into your bloodstream when you chew your food, brush your teeth or floss.