Most of us know that our physical health and wellbeing can be linked with our dental health and oral hygiene status. However, what most people may not be aware of is the fact that this process also works the other way around. There are several medical health conditions which can directly or indirectly affect your teeth and dental health. In fact, dentists are often the first ones to diagnose many diseases because of their damaging effect on the oral cavity.
Let’s take a look at some of the medical conditions which affect your oral health:
1. Kidney Disease and Bad Breath
If you or your loved ones observe that suddenly your breath has started to smell really bad despite regular brushing and flossing, then it may be an indication that you may have kidney disease. People who have renal problems often have breath which smells like ammonia or fish. This happens because the kidneys fail to perform their function; to remove harmful products from the body through urine. Instead, these harmful products remain in the blood and keep circulating throughout the body. Therefore, the oral cavity starts to smell pretty much like urine.
Kidney diseases are very dangerous and may prove to be fatal if they are not treated timely. If you remain tired and feverish throughout the day and have frequent body-aches along with a nasty smelling breath, you must visit your primary healthcare physician for a check-up.
2. Diabetes and Your Dental Health
According to the American Dental Association, chronic and uncontrolled diabetes can destroy your teeth and oral health in multiple ways:
• Teeth cavities – very high blood glucose levels result in a sharp decline in the quantity of saliva produced in the mouth. Due to this, the teeth are not cleaned properly. In addition, the saliva is unable to provide a buffering function and cannot maintain optimal pH in the oral cavity. As a result, cavities start forming on the teeth.
• Delayed Wound Healing – diabetes also negatively affects the body’s ability to fight infections. Therefore, oral infections and dentofacial injuries in diabetics often take longer to heal.
• Gum Inflammation – uncontrolled diabetes also results in the destruction of fibers which attach our teeth with gums and jaw bone. It also results in an inflammation of the gum tissues. As a result, gums in diabetics often remain swollen and painful, and they bleed easily while eating or brushing teeth. So, if you feel that your gums are not healing despite thorough toothbrushing and flossing, you have to urinate frequently and you feel tired and thirsty throughout the day, then you must visit your doctor immediately for a checkup.
3. Thyroid Problems
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck region which plays a vital role in our overall health and wellbeing. Research has shown that thyroid dysfunction can result in a variety of dental problems.
• Reduced Salivary Flow – damage to the thyroid gland significantly reduces salivary production and flow. This results in a higher risk of development of teeth cavities in the affected individuals.
• Periodontal Problems – individuals suffering from thyroid problems are at a higher risk of developing gum and periodontal problems.
• Delayed Tooth Eruption – the dysfunction of the parathyroid glands, which are attached to the thyroid gland results in delayed eruption, and the eruption of teeth with developmental defects.
4. High Blood Pressure and Dental Health
It is a well-documented fact that individuals who have high blood pressure often have periodontal problems. Interestingly, a research study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology in 2012 indicated there may a two-way link between dental health and high blood pressure. The research indicated an association between high blood pressure and gum or periodontal problems. Some anti-hypertensive medications may also indirectly affect your dental health. Some of the medicines, which are used for treating high blood pressure, can also result in the abnormal enlargement of the gums.
5. Gastric Reflux
Often dentists are the first ones to tell their patients that they are suffering gastric acid reflux. This is because the signs of acid reflux are quickly visible on the inner surface of the teeth. As a result of reflux of acidic fumes from the stomach, the enamel layer of inner surfaces of the back and upper front teeth become rough and sensitive to hot and cold foods. Due to their altered appearance, dentists often quickly observe signs of erosive damage on the teeth.
Unfortunately, some medicines used for the treatment of gastric acid reflux also result in a decline in salivary production. This exposes the already eroded and damaged teeth to a higher risk of developing cavities. Gastric acid fumes can also damage teeth fillings and may also lead to abscess formation or even tooth loss in extreme cases.
Existing medical conditions are not only an indication that your physical health is not up to the mark, but they may also predispose you to a higher risk of developing dental problems. So, the next time you feel that your gum swelling is not going away despite your best efforts at maintaining optimal oral hygiene, or when you feel that your teeth have started to develop widespread cavities without any reason, you should suspect an underlying medical problem.
If you suspect that your dental problem is due to an underlying medical condition, you should visit your healthcare physician and general dentists immediately for timely diagnosis and treatment of your problems. And of course, visit your dentist regularly because taking good care of your teeth and giving you a beautiful smile, they can also assist in diagnosing many underlying medical problems in their early stages.