Can a Gum Infection Affect Your Eyes?
You’ve heard it said a million times—brushing and flossing protect your teeth from cavities. But did you know that good oral health also protects your vision? Poor oral hygiene causes an infection called gum disease that wreaks havoc on your mouth. And when left untreated, gum disease can even lead to eye problems. Let’s take a closer look at how exactly a gum infection can affect your eyes.
What Is Gum Disease?
Besides wearing down your protective tooth enamel, a buildup of bacteria in your mouth also inflames your gums. This inflammation can cause a chronic gum infection, which is known as periodontitis, or gum disease. It causes a variety of symptoms that affect your gums, including bleeding, redness, puffiness, and tenderness.
As the disease progresses, your gums start to pull away from your teeth and form pockets that can trap bacteria, making the infection worse. The worse the infection gets, the higher the risk that bacteria can enter your bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body, including your eyes.
How a Gum Infection Can Affect Your Eyes
When the infectious bacteria that cause gum disease reach your eyes, they can have a variety of effects. For example, the bacteria can attack the optic nerve and cause glaucoma, which gradually leads to vision loss. The bacteria can also affect the retinas, which may lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
When left untreated, gum disease eventually causes so much damage that it leads to tooth loss. This is where the link between gum disease and glaucoma comes in.
A study from 2016 found that people who had lost teeth due to gum disease had an increased risk of primary-open angle glaucoma (POAG) due to infectious bacteria reaching the optic nerve and other parts of the eye. POAG is the most common form of glaucoma, and the leading cause of blindness around the world.
Unlike gum disease, POAG typically has no early warning signs. Glaucoma develops slowly and silently until finally, vision loss occurs. Treating gum disease as soon as you notice its symptoms will help lower your risk of blindness from glaucoma.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Another way the bacteria associated with gum disease can affect the eyes is by attacking their retinas. Another study found a link between gum disease and retinal degeneration, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD causes blurry vision, and is another leading cause of vision loss for aging adults. Even though the risk of AMD increases with age, the study also found that adults between the ages of 40 and 62 who had advanced gum disease were more likely to develop AMD than older adults with mild gum disease.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
Luckily, you can prevent gum disease and its effects on your eyes by improving your gum health in the following ways:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day, for two minutes each time
- Flossing every day
- Using an alcohol-free mouthwash
- Eating foods that promote gum health
- Quitting smoking
- Getting your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year
Gum Disease Prevention and Treatment in Gilbert, Arizona
Regular dental cleanings are key when it comes to preventing gum disease and maintaining good oral health. The compassionate team at Lifetime Family Dental performs gentle, thorough cleanings, and will check for the early signs of gum disease during your oral exam.
If you notice any signs of unhealthy gums, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Gum disease requires immediate intervention to keep the infection from spreading. Call us at 480-558-4331 today to schedule an appointment.