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Are Oral Health Problems Dangerous?

Recently, a fascinating story was released which showed exactly how dangerous oral health problems (like gum disease) can become, if left untreated …

The Headline reads, “Father of Two Dies of Tooth Infection”. As strange as that sounds, it echoes what most dentists have been saying for years. To summarize the depressing tale: a 30-something (seemingly healthy), man was complaining of a toothache, yet refused to see his doctor. Within days, he was in so much pain that he was rushed by his family to the emergency room. Unfortunately, it was too late – his tooth ache had cause a massive infection that eventually spread to his lungs.

To many people, this news was shocking. The thought that a simple tooth ache could kill is almost too much to bare. Yet, it is now being understood that your mouth can act as a window into your general health – continuously gauging how well your body is functioning.

While “lethal gum disease” is – thankfully – very rare, your dentist can use your mouth to identify the early stages of many serious conditions which can be equally as fatal. But first, it is important to understand how a simple problem with your oral health can play havoc on your entire body.

Bad Oral Health can make it easier for you to get sick

The bacteria and microflora of the mouth serve as the front-line soldiers of your immune system. Considering that your mouth and throat are direct channels for harmful bacteria to enter the body, a virus that enters your mouth can do untold damage. It’s good to keep your mouth healthy in order to prevent a virus from taking a foot-hold inside of you, and if your mouth isn’t healthy, there is a good chance that you’ve noticed yourself getting sick more often.

Periodontal Disease and Cancer

In several studies, it has been found that most people who suffer from certain cancers had serious gum disease before their symptoms began to show. One study goes on to explain, “Oral-associated microbes are present in breast tumors … Periodontal disease, a common chronic inflammatory disorder, was associated with increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Understanding a possible role of the oral microbiome in [breast cancer] could impact prevention.”

This study adds to previous research, which found that cold sores and gum inflammation could be linked to other serious health problems like cognitive dysfunction. Personally, I find most cognitive disorders to be particularly unsettling. If you are like me, then I would recommend taking your oral health care very seriously.

Things to watch for

First, what are “gum problems”? A gum problem – or Periodontal Disease  – is an infection in the mouth, typically resulting from inadequate cleaning of plaque and other bacteria after regular brushing. It is one of the most common issues treated by dentists, and statistically, there is a good chance that you have already battled this illness. Usually, gum disease appears as Gingivitis. Gingivitis occurs with a build-up of oral bacteria and causes inflammation, jaw discomfort, sore gums and bleeding of the mouth. If gingivitis is not addressed quickly, it can result in the more serious condition, Periodontitis. When the infection is permitted to reach this advanced stage, more uncomfortable symptoms appear that can do lasting damage to your smile.

At this stage, the gums will usually begin to pull away from your teeth, creating more bleeding and inflammation, and exposing gaps in between your pearly-whites. As the gaps in your smile continue to expand, the exposed areas are very susceptible to even more radical forms of infection.  Without treatment, Periodontitis will cause your teeth and jaw bone to weaken (if not dissolve) which could permanently damage your smile.

Since gum disease, gingivitis, and periodontitis all stem from an infection (albeit an oral one) there are major implications for the rest of your body if they are not treated.

How we help

As is the case with most life-threatening diseases (like cancer), early detection is the key. We here at Berryhill Dentistry have several options that could help to shine a light on these serious health concerns when they are still treatable. Schedule your appointment today to ensure your peace of mind tomorrow!


https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm – periodontitis