How Chronic Illnesses Can Affect Your Oral Health
Chronic illnesses don’t just affect the area of the body they are centralized in, they also affect your entire body system. For example, diabetes affects the pancreas, but because the pancreas creates insulin which is a hormone that travels throughout your body and affects many of its functions, all areas of the body will see some impact. This is a primary reason why your oral health can be affected by many chronic health conditions and diseases. Sometimes even acute illnesses can weaken your oral health and cause your mouth to require additional attention.
It is also important to note that poor oral health can contribute to the development of many chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some autoimmune conditions as well. Your body works as one large system, which means that every area of your body affects those around it. Your overall health affects your oral health and your oral health affects your overall health. They are not separate, they are always intertwined.
Here are some common conditions that affect, or are affected by, your oral health:
Regular high blood sugar can lead to periodontal disease (an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place), which can cause pain, bad breath and loose teeth. Diabetes also increases the level of sugar in saliva, which can lead to thrush (a fungal infection that causes painful white patches in the mouth).
Periodontal disease is an infection and infections raise blood sugar. This means those with gum disease are more likely to develop diabetes and those who already have diabetes are even more negatively impacted by gum disease.
Keeping your gums and mouth healthy can help to avoid the development of diabetes in many cases and managing diabetes effectively can help to keep your mouth healthy.
Cancers of the mouth, throat and neck can impact your oral health, but the primary concern for all types of cancer are the side effects of cancer treatments.
Radiation and chemotherapy can cause mouth sores, damage salivary glands causing dry mouth, create jaw pain and make your mouth more susceptible to infections.
Heart attacks and strokes do not necessarily cause oral health issues, but your oral health can absolutely contribute to cardiovascular concerns.
People with poor oral health tend to have higher rates of heart disease and stroke because the bacteria that causes gum disease can travel through the bloodstream and cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain. This can lead to heart disease, clogged arteries and even a stroke. The bacteria can also create an infection surrounding your heart called endocarditis.
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome tend to increase inflammation in the body which can increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease. Patients with lupus are also more likely to struggle with severe gum disease, as well as chronic ulcers and lesions on the lips, tongue and mouth. Lupus also attacks glands that produce saliva, and some medications used to treat it can cause dry mouth.
For those with rheumatoid arthritis, the pain and stiffness experienced can cause jaw pain which makes it more difficult to brush, floss and maintain a regular oral hygiene protocol.
Sjogren’s syndrome often develops as a result of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and causes dry mouth and eyes. This can make chewing and teeth brushing difficult. Dry mouth can also lead to an oral infection such as thrush.
Osteoporosis causes bones to become weakened and more brittle which can cause your teeth to break or bone loss in the jaw which can then lead to tooth loss. Be sure to discuss managing your tooth, jaw and oral health with your doctor, specialist and dentist if you have or develop osteoporosis.
An immune system that is weakened by kidney disease may be more prone to infection. Oral infections may also delay a kidney transplant, making good oral hygiene critical when you are managing kidney disease.
Parkinson’s disease can cause stiffness in the jaw muscles which can make it difficult to chew food and swallow. This can increase the risk of choking and cause saliva to pool in the mouth, leading to infections.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, weakens muscles and affects physical abilities, which can make brushing and flossing difficult. It can also lead to saliva accumulating in the mouth can cause plaque and bacteria to build up, causing cavities, gum disease and oral infections.
Huntington’s disease causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, affecting how the hands and arms function. Those with Huntington’s are significantly more likely to experience tooth decay. They may also be more likely to grind and clench which causes pain, worn and broken teeth, headaches, jaw pain and TMJ disorders.
When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, your doctor will typically recommend that you discuss your condition with your dentist to ensure that they can provide you with extra care and advice focused on managing the impact of your condition. If they don’t, you should still be sure to let your dentist know. At Ambiance Dental, we strive to thoroughly understand your entire health and lifestyle picture to ensure we provide you with the best care and solution to meet your unique needs. Please discuss any health challenges you are experiencing with your dentist at your next visit.
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