Oral and Dental Diseases

Oral and Dental Diseases

Links between oral and general health

Oral conditions have an impact on overall health and disease. Did you know that a dental check-up can detect and prevent certain diseases? Did you know that oral microorganisms can enter the bloodstream and travel around anywhere within the body? During a dental infection, germs can sometimes use the blood vessels of the tooth to spread to other parts of the body like the heart, eyes and arteries.

How your oral health may affect your heart

In people with a cardiovascular weakness, an untreated oral infection can lead to severe or fatal complications. Bacteria from the mouth can spread through the bloodstream an cause endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocardium). Endocarditis is a rare but very serious disease. It should be treated with antibiotics in the hospital and could require emergency surgery because the heart valves may be destroyed by bacteria.

In fact, bacteria from the mouth are much more harmful than one might think. They can cause not only gingivitis but also arterial inflammation and blood clots. When these germs enter the bloodstream, the immune system identifies them as intruders and this results in local inflammation of the artery walls. This inflammation can serve as a basis for the development atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. This pathology may cause a heart attack, a stroke or a ruptured aneurysm.

Prevention

By telling your dentist about your medical history (e.g.: cardiovascular disease), he or she will be able to prescribe antibiotic prophylaxis before a dental procedure to prevent bacterial infection or other possible complications related to your health condition. Proper tooth brushing and good oral hygiene would therefore protect your arteries and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Your teeth and your maxillary sinuses

A tooth infection has the potential to create a sinusitis. The maxillary sinuses are located on both sides of the nose, near the nasal cavity (or nasal fossa). The sinuses are covered by a mucous membrane that protects them from bacteria and warms the air that enters that area.

Symptoms of a maxillary sinus infection

You may experience pain around healthy teeth when leaning forward or when you run. The mucous membrane of the sinuses is inflamed and the increased pressure in the sinus cavity causes pain that radiates to your teeth.

Causes of a maxillary sinusitis

  • Molar root infection;
  • Mucosal irritation following a tooth extraction or the accidental projection of toothpaste in the sinuses;
  • Severe cases of nasal septum deviation (anatomical cause);
  • Certain medications such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and prolonged antibiotic therapy.

Oral health and diabetes

People with diabetes are more prone to oral health problems like cavities, salivary gland disorders and receding gums. Wounds on the gums are slow-healing and tartar build-up linked to dry mouth (xerostomia) can cause gum swelling.

Some of the signs of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision

People with diabetes may be subject to fungal infections. The most common is oral thrush and is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. You can recognize this infection by the white bumps it produces on the tongue, inner cheeks, or tonsils.

Diabetes can also cause an accumulation of acidic components in the blood, which can cause bad breath.

It is important to consult a health professional promptly if any of the above symptoms appear. Your dentist will recommend a strict adherence to dental hygiene to prevent oral infections or worsening of diabetes.

From your teeth to your eyes

Bacteria from a dental infection can spread to the eyes through the blood vessels. Uveitis, an inflammation of the eye membrane, may result. It affects the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall (uvea) including the iris, ciliary body and choroid. The symptoms of this inflammation include eye redness and vision impairment. In cases of cataract operations, bacteria of dental origin could colonize the prosthesis that replaces the lens, which could lead to serious complications.

Your teeth and your musculo-articular system

Musculoskeletal and joint problems can be the consequence of a dental infection, a missing tooth or a malocclusion. It even happens that some athletes experience muscle aches due to bacteria of dental origin which settled on an already weakened muscle or tendon in their body. Muscle strains and tendinitis are unfortunately promoted by these microorganisms and the treatment of the infection is necessary.

A dental malocclusion can have an impact on the movement of other teeth and on the balance of all surrounding joints. An adapted orthodontic treatment will encourage a better alignment of the jaws.

Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Bruxism is the involuntary and excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth. It is often detected by a spouse or partner who hears the grinding at night. The clenching of the teeth in the morning is often related to the stress of everyday life. The phenomenon can occur temporarily or on a regular basis.

Consequences of bruxism:

  • Premature tooth wear;
  • Tired or tight mandible muscles (lower jawbone);
  • Pain radiating to the shoulders and neck;
  • Headaches;
  • Pain in the jaw and the temporomandibular joint;
  • Clicking sounds in the jaw joints;
  • Noise when teeth are rubbing against each other;
  • Mouth opening limitation.

Treatments

  • Awareness of this bad habit;
  • Orthodontics to align teeth;
  • Wearing a bite plate at night (dental appliance to stop teeth grinding);
  • Relaxing your jaws;
  • Reducing your stress or anxiety.

Surgical infections

Did you know that a dental infection can compromise the success of a surgery? For example, the treatment of dental infections is very important before a heart or kidney transplant in order to avoid systemic complications. Orthopedic and eye surgeries require the same precautions. This is why it is essential to conduct a pre-surgery oral examination and obtain radiographs to detect potential risks of infection.

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