can bad teeth make you sick?
Firstly, let’s look at why and how tooth rotting occurs.
We all have bacteria living in our mouths. This bacteria creates a film over our teeth called dental plaque. When we eat foods containing sugars and carbohydrates, the bacteria in the plaque feeds on these carbs and sugars. This feeding process produces an acid that slowly wears away at our tooth enamel, which is the hard outer layer of the tooth.
When this happens, cavities begin to form in our teeth. Cavities are tiny pin-prick holes that appear on the surface of the tooth and open into large crevices below the tooth enamel. They may appear black or brown.
After a cavity has formed, our tooth is essentially ‘open’. This means that the dentine, the bone-like matter that sits underneath the enamel, becomes exposed to bacteria and plaque. Because the dentine is soft, it tends to decay quickly once the bacteria reaches it.
Once the dentine is affected, the bacteria can then reach the pulp of the tooth. This is very dangerous, as the pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth that contains the blood vessels and nerves that provide our teeth with sensation.
Once bacteria has reached the pulp, you’ll likely experience intense pain.
At this point of tooth rotting, the tooth and gum become vulnerable to disease and infection.
The signs of tooth decay include
Once bacteria has infiltrated the pulp of the tooth, you are at risk of developing gum disease.
Tooth decay can cause an infection to form in the gum when bacteria enters the area.
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. Symptoms include sore, red, and bleeding gums.
If left to progress, gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease, which is a more severe presentation of gum disease. It can cause pain, pus, bleeding, tooth wobbling, and in severe cases, tooth and bone loss.
Infection in the pulp of the tooth is known as an abscess.
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that forms either at the tip of the tooth root (periapical abscess) or in the gums at the side of the tooth root (periodontal abscess). Symptoms include a throbbing toothache that may spread throughout the head, tooth pain or sensitivity, fever, swelling of the face, swollen lymph nodes around your jaw or neck, and a foul taste in your mouth.
Gum disease, particularly the more severe periodontal disease, can make you sick if left untreated.
When your gum is diseased and your tooth is decayed, it allows a pathway for the harmful bacteria in your mouth to enter your bloodstream. This carries the infection through the body where it can begin to target other organs.
A gum infection can spread to the face, neck, and more distant areas of the body where the infection can become systemic, and affect multiple tissues.
People who have weakened immune systems are more likely to experience a spread of infection.
Some of the infections that can develop through the body as a result of gum disease include
We know that bacteria naturally lives in our mouths. This means that every time you swallow, you swallow thousands of bacteria.
While this might sound a bit off-putting, there’s no need to rush off and rinse your mouth out. Some of these bacteria are actually good for us.
Your mouth needs good bacteria to keep your teeth and body healthy. Probiotic bacteria protect the mouth by releasing acids that keep decay-causing bacteria at bay.
Other types of good bacteria protect against the bad bacteria that cause gum disease.
However, there are a number of harmful bacteria strains living in your mouth as well.
When there is a bacterial imbalance in your mouth, — you have too many bad bacteria and too few good bacteria — not only will your teeth and gums suffer, but your gut health can become affected too.
Think of your digestive system as a long, winding hallway, and your mouth as the entry to that hallway.
When you swallow too many bad bacteria due to poor oral health, the rest of your digestive system is also exposed to these harmful bacteria.
Studies have shown a clear link between oral disease and systemic disease, with oral pathogens linked to rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Rotting teeth have been linked to certain stomach-related issues.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and digestive irregularities are the two main stomach issues that arise as a result of rotting teeth.
In cases of severe, untreated tooth decay and infection, sepsis may result, which can present with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
There are two conditions that fall under the IBD banner; Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
Both conditions present as inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Researchers have found a connection between the overgrowth of foreign bacteria in the stomachs of people suffering from IBD. This prompted further research into whether oral disease plays a part in gastrointestinal diseases.
The researchers found that gum inflammation did indeed cause the inflammation in the stomach to worsen.
There are two key ways in which oral bacteria worsen stomach inflammation.
Firstly, severe gum disease creates an imbalance in the mouth’s microbiome, which leads to an increase of the bacteria that causes gum inflammation. This bacteria travels down to the stomach and causes inflammation when it arrives there.
Our stomachs are usually able to resist a buildup of harmful bacteria, but this bad oral bacteria can disrupt the stomach’s healthy bacteria. This weakens the stomach’s ability to effectively fight against disease-causing bacteria from the mouth.
Secondly, gum disease activates the immune system’s T cells in our mouths. These cells then travel down to the stomach, where they exacerbate stomach inflammation.
So, bad oral bacteria contribute to the development of IBD because these strains weaken our ability to fight off infection. Additionally, the body’s response to these harmful bacteria triggers an immune system response, which in turn weakens the stomach.
Digestion starts the moment you begin to eat or drink. In fact, your salivary glands jump into action at the mere sight of food.
These salivary glands help to break down food in our mouths by secreting enzymes that chip away at starches and fats. These enzymes then lubricate food from the esophagus to the stomach and help to continually break down food particles through the digestive process.
Our teeth also play an essential role in how we digest food.
The process of chewing triggers the production of hydrochloric acid, which asists with digestion by regulating your pH levels and increasing acidity levels to aid food breakdown.
Without functioning, healthy teeth, we can’t adequately tear, grind, and chew our food properly.
When we swallow food that hasn’t been chewed properly, larger food particles enter the digestive tract, which can cause issues such as gas, bloating, constipation, and food reactions.
Rotted teeth often cause pain or sensitivity, which makes chewing very difficult. In many cases, rotted teeth also change the function of our bite. Missing or severely decayed teeth prevent our upper and lower arches from meeting properly to form a bite, which prevents us from chewing our food properly.
In other words, rotted teeth prevent us from chewing and breaking down our food before we swallow. This often results in digestive discomfort.
Rotting teeth can become life-threatening when the bad bacteria enters the bone or tissue below the tooth, forming a dental abscess.
The abscess infection can trigger an inflammatory response by your immune system, which causes a widespread reaction throughout the body.
This extreme response to infection is known as sepsis and it is a life-threatening condition.
Sepsis causes a range of symptoms, including stomach symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
More concerningly, it can cause tissue damage and organ failure throughout the body.
Not all toothaches become serious health concerns snf diarrhea is not a common symptom associated with toothaches.
However, diarrhea can be a sign that your tooth infection is spreading through the body via your bloodstream.
If tooth decay is the cause of your diarrhea, it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of sepsis listed above, seek immediate emergency care. This is a serious, life-threatening condition that needs to be seen to promptly.
If you are experiencing signs of a dental abscess, such as a throbbing toothache, tooth pain, fever, swelling of the face, or pain when chewing or biting, seek a same-day appointment with your dentist. Your abscess will need to be treated immediately to prevent the infection from spreading.
The signs of gum disease include sore, red, and bleeding gums. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Treating gum disease early will help to protect your mouth and body from further damage.
For early-stage tooth decay (if you notice a cavity forming), book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Visit our blog on how to prevent tooth rotting.
Tooth decay does more damage than simply breaking down your teeth. It can lead to infections that can spread to the other parts of the body, it can increase your risk of heart disease and it can weaken your immune system. Good oral hygiene and biannual trips to the dentist are essential when it comes to keeping tooth decay away.
Tooth decay is caused by the acids created by bacteria in the mouth. These microorganisms coat teeth with a sticky film called plaque that is made up of acids that eat away at teeth. Plaque on teeth leads to decay, and it leads to gum disease when it gets beneath the gums. Here’s how teeth rotting away weakens your body:
Having poor oral hygiene leads to bacteria building up in the mouth. These germs can make their way into the bloodstream, and from there, any other part of the body. This weakens the immune system, leading to fatigue and an increased risk of falling ill.
Studies have linked the type of bacteria that lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay to heart disease. As is the case with gum disease, heart disease is caused by plaque build-up. The condition occurs when plaque inside arteries builds up to the point it begins to disrupts or blocks blood flow, potentially causing a heart attack.
Health conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis and HIV/AIDS can be worsened by unhealthy levels of bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria invasion leads to a weakened immune system, and that makes many chronic conditions worse. Improving oral hygiene can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease weakening the immune system.
Tooth decay ruins the appearance of teeth and that can lead to a person being reluctant to smile due to fears of being judged for the appearance of their teeth. It is a well-founded fear given the fact one of the first things people notice during social interactions is the appearance of a person’s smile.
Tooth decay often starts as a small cavity developing on a tooth. The cavity expands until it reaches the pulp chamber when left untreated. The pulp chamber is the inner chamber of a tooth and it contains connective tissues, blood vessels and nerves. The pulp chamber is sealed off from the rest of a tooth, but it can be opened up by decay or damage to the tooth.
Bacteria will eventually get to exposed soft tissues in the pulp chamber when the decay is left untreated. This leads to an infection, which leads to excruciating toothaches. A tooth infection can spread to areas like the brain where it can be life-threatening.
Call or visit our Des Plaines clinic to set up an appointment with our dentist if you have decayed teeth that need to be treated.
Request an appointment here: https://www.healthydentalcenter.com or call Healthy Dental Center at (847) 390-5800 for an appointment in our Des Plaines office.
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It can lead to infections that can spread to the other parts of the body, it can increase your risk of heart disease and it can weaken your immune system. Good oral hygiene and biannual trips to the dentist are essential when it comes to keeping tooth decay away.
- A general feeling of fatigue and being unwell.
- Persistent headaches, jaw aches, or earaches.
- Noticeable and uncomfortable facial swelling.
- Chills or high fever.
- Increased heart rate or lightheadedness.
- Unexplained stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
But what many don’t know is that good dental health is key to maintaining whole-person health – especially for people with certain medical conditions.
“During a routine exam, a dentist can often detect the first signs of underlying conditions such as diabetes, leukemia, or heart disease,” said Dr. Cary Sun, Cigna’s chief dental officer. “Regular treatment is crucial for these patients to help address needed dental treatment and prevent serious infections that can impact their overall health.”
Improving whole-person health has become a key focus in health care. Just as mental illness has shown to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease, poor oral health can exacerbate those and other conditions, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to improving overall health, obtaining routine preventive dental care can also reduce overall health care costs. A recent Cigna study found that on average, those who receive consistent preventive dental care can reduce their total medical costs by 4.4% per year. For those with diabetes, the savings was even higher – an average of 12.25% per year.
The following medical conditions have known associations to oral health, so it’s important for patients with these conditions to see their dentists regularly to receive the dental treatment they need.
Diabetes that is not well-controlled 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 tooth loss. 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.
Studies have shown that people with poor oral health tend to have higher rates of heart disease and stroke. Some researchers believe the bacteria that causes periodontitis and gingivitis can travel through the bloodstream, causing inflammation and damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain. If fatty plaques block a blood vessel that leads to the heart, they can cause a heart attack. If they reach the brain and cut off blood supply, they can cause a stroke.
If a patient’s immune system is weakened by kidney disease, they could be more prone to infections caused by severe gum disease. Cavities and gum disease cause pain, difficulty eating, and mouth odor, and they can also fuel chronic inflammation, which can contribute to other medical conditions, such as heart disease. In addition, dental infections may delay a kidney transplant, making good oral hygiene essential.
Dental management is an important part of any organ transplant. Before the procedure, doctors want to ensure that patients are not suffering from infections or untreated dental issues that could further complicate the procedure. Afterward, anti-rejection medications may make it difficult for patients to fight bacteria and prevent infection.
Dental treatment is also key for patients who receive radiation therapy for head and neck cancers. Radiation can cause mouth ulcers, damage a patient’s salivary glands, and cause dry mouth. Some patients experience a loss of taste, while others grapple with jaw stiffness and loss of tissue and bone in the jaw.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes dry eyes and mouth. Many patients develop the condition as a complication of another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. People with Sjogren’s Syndrome may have a hard time chewing certain foods, and brushing may be uncomfortable. The condition can also lead to thrush.
The connection between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis goes back centuries – Hippocrates suggested pulling teeth to cure arthritis. Researchers believe that bacteria responsible for inflammation in dental disease may prompt rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, pain and stiffness can cause jaw pain and make it harder for people with arthritis to brush and floss.
Patients with lupus are more likely to struggle with severe gum disease, as well as chronic ulcers and lesions on the lips, tongue, and mouth. The autoimmune disease also attacks glands that produce saliva, and some medications used to treat it can cause dry mouth.
Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system, can cause stiffness in jaw muscles, making it difficult to chew and swallow. This can increase the risk of choking and cause saliva to pool in the mouth, leading to infections. People with Parkinson’s are also more likely to have bacteria that’s associated with severe gum disease, which can infiltrate the bloodstream.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, weakens muscles and affects physical function, which can make brushing and flossing difficult. In addition, accumulation of saliva in the mouth can cause plaque and bacteria to build up, leading to cavities, gum disease, and pneumonia.
Huntington’s disease causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, affecting the functioning of the hands and arms. Patients with the disease have shown to have significantly more decayed teeth than those who do not. They can also grind and clench their teeth, leading to pain, tooth fractures, headaches, and TMJ disorders.
Adolescents and young adults have shown to be at greater risk of developing an opioid addiction. Dentists can be the primary source of first-time exposure, particularly following wisdom tooth extractions. At Cigna, we have worked with dentists to help reduce opioid prescriptions and we have also initiated limits on opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply for patients who undergo dental procedures.
Opioid misuse can cause dry mouth, which can lead to mouth sores, gum disease, and tooth decay. Combined with increased sugar consumption, dry mouth can be more destructive to the teeth. Opioids can also cause acid reflux, which can damage tooth enamel and gum tissues.
Skipping a dentist visit may seem like no big deal. We may think, “I don’t eat very much candy. I probably don’t have bad teeth.” But before you dismiss the importance of your dental health, you should know that tooth decay is the most common disease among people between 6 and 19 years old. By the time we are adults, most of us have experienced it at some point in our lives.
So what other areas of your body can be affected by having bad teeth? We’ve got your answers, but before we get into that, what does it mean to have “bad teeth” anyway?
It may seem like clean-looking, glistening white teeth are healthy teeth. But did know you could have wonderful looking teeth that are still unhealthy? It’s true! Here are some of the most common dental issues, as well as their symptoms, how they can affect the rest of your body, and how you can prevent them from happening.
Also often referred to as having a cavity, tooth decay is the most common issue facing our mouths today. You may not realize that you have decay present in your teeth, because signs are not always painful or visible.
Tooth decay occurs through a process of your teeth being unprotected against dangerous elements, “dangerous” meaning they can wear down your enamel. When bad bacteria sticks to and between your teeth, it can cause plaque build-up, which erodes your enamel, exposes the softer dentin layer underneath, and creates holes in the tooth. Tooth decay is literally your tooth being eaten away.
Cavities must be dealt with by your dentist immediately. If tooth decay is not drilled away and filled-in in a timely manner, all that bad bacteria can travel through the open channels of your dentin and enter the pulp of the tooth. At this stage, you are left with a much more painful and serious infection issue.
Complications stemming from tooth decay can include the breaking or cracking of your teeth and tooth loss. If an abscess occurs, meaning that a pocket of pus has collected inside the tooth, the infection can spread to the bones that hold your teeth and into the entire body. In rare cases, the infection may move through the sinuses and into the brain, an infection which can be fatal.
Gum disease begins when plaque builds up in the mouth, much like a cavity. However, rather than sitting on the teeth, the build-up occurs on the gums. This can cause irritation and swelling in the affected area, and possibly lead to gingivitis. If gingivitis is left uncared for it may turn into periodontitis, a severe gum disease that can cause the gums to recede and lead to an abscess inside the gum opening.
According to Johns Hopkins Rheumatology, “bacterium known to cause chronic inflammatory gum infections also triggers the inflammatory autoimmune response also found in the joints of patients with the chronic, joint-destroying autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA).” In fact, people suffering from gum disease can be four times as likely to have RA.
The very same bacteria that builds up on gums can actually get into the bloodstream, inviting plaque into the arteries to harden and cause a blockage. This is a very serious condition called atherosclerosis and it makes the chances of having a heart attack greatly increase.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Arteriosclerosis occurs when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body (arteries) become thick and stiff — sometimes restricting blood flow to your organs and tissues. Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic, but over time, the walls in your arteries can harden, a condition commonly called hardening of the arteries.” This arterial damage can lead to hypertension and increase the risk of strokes.
In addition to risks to your arteries and heart, the effects of gum disease can include risks to your brain. In rare cases, matter released by infected gums can cause brain cells to die, resulting in memory loss. If gingivitis is able to escalate, bacteria that is able to spread through nerve channels may be able to cause dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Complications During Pregnancy
You are likely now catching on to the fact that the effects of insufficient oral hygiene can be dangerous to not just your teeth, but your entire body. This is especially true for pregnant women. Due to hormonal changes during those precious nine months, pregnant women are more susceptible to infections in the gums. Additionally, infections in the mouth or anywhere else can increase the chances of pregnancy complications.
Scary but true, the presence of gingivitis or periodontitis has been linked to low birth weight and even premature birth in newborns.
Not only can the bacteria found in infected gums travel into the brain and affect the heart, it can also travel from the mouth and be breathed into the lungs or arrive via the bloodstream. In the same way that plaque and bacterial build-up can cause issues in the mouth, bacteria sitting inside the lungs can also lead to infections of the respiratory system, bronchitis, and pneumonia. In some cases, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a possible result.
Women who have experienced issues with infertility may want to consider dental health as a contributing factor. Gum disease can affect the body in many ways, as we have seen, and can make becoming pregnant more difficult, as well as sustaining a healthy pregnancy. A woman with poor oral health may have a harder time becoming pregnant than someone who does not have dental health concerns.
While women are at higher risk for irritation in the gums during hormonal shifts, men’s bodies can also be negatively affected by health issues stemming in the gums. Specifically, chronic gum disease can lead to erectile dysfunction in men. If periodontitis causes the gums to recede and pull away from the teeth, an opportunity for bacteria literally opens, allowing the bacteria to deteriorate the bone supporting the teeth.
This bacteria, if able to get into the bloodstream, can cause inflammation of the blood vessels. This inflammation can hinder blood flow to the genitals, which in turn makes it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection.
The practice of smoking and the use of tobacco are not the only oral practices that may lead to cancer. While the exact connection between diseases is unclear, there is evidence that a person with advanced periodontal disease may have a higher risk of cancers. Overall poor oral health can lead to blood cancers, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer.
Infections existing in the body, like periodontal disease for example, are able to lead to kidney disease. Kidney disease affects the heart, bones, kidneys, and blood with symptoms like weight loss, poor appetite, swollen extremities, fatigue, blood in urine, insomnia, muscle cramps, headaches, and shortness of breath. Those with poor oral health practices leading to gum disease often have weaker immune systems which make the development of infection a higher possibility. If severe enough, kidney disease can be fatal.
Diabetes and dental health issues can be a vicious cycle. That’s because diabetics are at high risk for developing infections in the gums, while having gum disease can exacerbate the symptoms of diabetes. Gum disease can increase blood sugar levels, and diabetics’ bodies are not able to process sugar efficiently, so those who do not keep up healthy oral routines are at increased risk for becoming diabetic.
You can read more about the link between diabetes and gum disease here.
These risks can be frightening to read through, but thankfully the best tools for prevention are both simple and effective. The best way to prevent oral health issues from causing other serious health issues is by implementing a good oral health ritual and by scheduling regular cleanings and visits with a dental professional.
Here are a few keys to keep your oral health in check:
Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, for two minutes each time you brush. Use a safe and effective toothpaste every time you brush and avoid unnecessary ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can be damaging to your gums. You may also want to brush after consuming foods or beverages that could damage your enamel and create plaque build-up. Items like cakes, cookies, candy, juices, and sodas are major offenders.
Floss and Rinse
In addition to brushing, flossing can help prevent issues in the gums that could lead to serious health problems. Flossing is beneficial because floss is able to get into places that your toothbrush cannot go. Also, using a mouthwash when brushing can help loosen and wash away unwanted food particles while rinsing the surfaces of your teeth of bacteria.
Avoid Using Tobacco
For more reasons than just oral health, it is beneficial to discontinue use of all tobacco products, but prevention of gum disease and oral cancer are certainly ones to consider.
It is vital that the toothpaste you use each day contains fluoride. Fluoride binds to the teeth and protects them from mineral loss, enamel erosion, and cavities. Use a fluoride toothpaste every time you brush and talk to your dentist about possibly getting a fluoride treatment at your next cleaning.
Help keep your teeth, gums, and the rest of your body healthy by following these simple steps.
Here is some quick Smile Education to help you get started!