10 Health Conditions That Can Affect Your Teeth and Gums
- Your Mouth, Teeth and Gums Say a Lot About Your General HealthWhen you go for your routine dental exam, your dentist checks for more than just cavities. That’s because your mouth can signal problems in the rest of your body. From your heart and lungs to your immune system, be aware of these 10 health conditions linked to tooth and gum disease.
- 1. High Blood PressureHigh blood pressure raises your risk of developing gum disease, so if you have it, you may be more likely to have red and bleeding gums. Medications for high blood pressure can also affect your gums and cause dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. One type of blood pressure medication, called an ACE inhibitor, may help keep your mouth healthy as well as your blood pressure down, so talk with your doctor and dentist about treatment options if you have high blood pressure.
- 2. Heart DiseaseExperts think there may be a link between oral health and heart disease, though the nature of it isn’t clear. However, if you have severe gum disease—periodontitis—you are twice as likely to have heart disease. The theory is that bacteria from your inflamed gums can travel through your body and reach your heart, causing cardiovascular problems. The healthier you keep your teeth and gums, the lower your risk of heart disease connected to oral health.
- 3. DiabetesDiabetes can cause periodontitis, the severe form of gum disease. Your gums may start to pull away from your teeth, which can make them loose or even fall out. If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk of developing periodontitis by keeping your blood sugar under control. If you have gum disease and diabetes, you probably need to work with a specialist—a periodontist—who may recommend gum surgery. Tell your diabetes team about any gum disease, too, so they can help you keep it under control with good oral hygiene and a healthy diet.
- 4. Long-Term Kidney DiseaseThere's a two-way link between long-term kidney disease and severe gum problems. Chronic kidney disease can lead to poor bone health, heart disease, and high blood pressure, all of which have a connection to gum disease. In turn, chronic gum infection can cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, which can further hurt your kidneys. Everyone needs to take care of their teeth and gums, but if you have kidney disease, a minor infection in your mouth could develop into something more serious. Take the best care of your mouth that you can and see your dentist regularly.
- 5. Lung DiseaseLung diseases like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bronchitis, and pneumonia may be linked to gum disease, which increases the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria can travel to your lungs and could trigger lung disease. Work with your dentist to keep your gums healthy, and tell your doctor if you have gum disease and lung symptoms like cough or shortness of breath. Smoking makes these problems worse, so if you smoke, discuss a quit smoking plan with your dentist or doctor.
- 6. ObesityIf you are seriously overweight, you have an increased risk of developing periodontitis. Researchers are not sure that obesity causes periodontitis, but they think inflammation links the two problems. Fat cells produce proteins that trigger inflammation, and gum disease is an inflammatory condition. If you are overweight, work with your doctor to reach and maintain a healthy weight, which will reduce your chance of developing gum disease or other medical conditions associated with obesity.
- 7. OsteoporosisIf you have osteoporosis, which typically affects older women and men, your bones thin and become more fragile. Your dentist may suspect osteoporosis if you are older and have loose teeth or a loose denture, which are strong signs of weakened bones in the rest of your body. Dental X-rays may show that your jawbone has become less dense, which causes the loose teeth. You may need diet changes and medication to treat osteoporosis. Don’t wait until your annual physical. Talk with your doctor now if your dentist sees signs of the condition.
- 8. Rheumatoid ArthritisRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is also linked to gum disease by inflammation. Many studies suggest that RA increases the chance you’ll develop gum disease, and having gum disease increases your risk of RA. Studies show the more teeth you lose, the more severe your RA is likely to be. The important message for people with RA, and for everyone, is to see your dentist regularly and take steps to prevent gum disease: brush and floss every day, and eat healthy, nutritious food that is low in sugar and acid.
- HIVYour mouth may show signs of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) before you have symptoms elsewhere in your body. A yeast infection in your mouth, called thrush, can be an early sign of HIV. It appears as a white rash on your tongue, inner cheeks, or elsewhere in your mouth. You may also develop gum disease, mouth sores, or herpes. Most dental problems associated with HIV are treatable, and though there is no cure for HIV, the disease can often be well controlled with the many medications that are now available.
- AnemiaIf you’re anemic, meaning you lack red blood cells, your gums may show it by being pale and sore. There are many possible reasons for anemia, and treatment will depend on the cause. You may need to take iron or vitamins to supplement your diet, or you may have a more serious condition, such as internal bleeding. If your dentist notices you have pale gums, they can refer you to the appropriate doctor.
10 Conditions That Can Affect Teeth and Gums