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Why Good Dental Hygiene Also Protects Your Vision

For one reason or another, most people would rather visit their local eye doctor every year than the family dentist. As a result, we see patients at the Brazos Eye Center who don’t practice good oral hygiene habits in accordance with American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines, including semi-annual dental checkups and professional teeth cleanings. But is there a relationship between a person’s oral health and their eyesight? A growing number of studies are now showing that good dental hygiene habits also help ensure better vision.

How Do Bad Teeth Affect My Eyes?

Not only have researchers found that the overall oral health of your teeth and gums can also affect vision, it can dramatically do so. Based on those findings, the main dental problems that carry over to the eyes include tooth decay, gum disease and teeth with old mercury fillings. For example, the neurotoxic bacteria that cause root problems (necessitating a root canal) can travel from your mouth to eyes via the lymphatic system, and then cause optic nerve damage and subsequent vision loss.

Several studies have also shown a link between mercury fillings, which are no longer used for cavities because of their harmful properties, and vision loss problems including:

  • Retinitis pigmentosa
  • Color-vision issues
  • Iritis
  • Cataract formation

Gum, or periodontal disease, is a common and painful inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth caused by harmful bacteria growing below the gumline- primarily due to poor brushing and flossing habits. Periodontal disease starts out as gingivitis, which we’ve all heard about in mouthwash ads, when left-behind food deposits accumulate in the gum tissues and create an environment conducive for disease-causing bacteria to grow in. Symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • Gum inflammation and swelling
  • Painful gums
  • Bad breath
  • Gum bleeding, notably after brushing

Not treated promptly at a licensed dentist’s office, gingivitis can then transition into full-blown gum disease and even cause loose teeth that eventually have to be extracted. The resulting harmful bacteria can also enter a patient’s bloodstream and lymphatic system and travel to other
parts of the body, including the eyes. Once in the eyes, those pathogens can induce eye tissue
deterioration and vision loss.

Poor Dental Hygiene and Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease resulting from increased fluid buildup in the eye that places excessive and damaging pressure on the optic nerve. Left untreated, open-angle glaucoma can cause vision loss and even blindness. Dr. Louis Pasquale, MD, from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard Medical School has determined that a correlation between tooth infections and the development of this type of glaucoma exists.

And, a recent study published in the Journal of Glaucoma showed that the number of natural teeth a patient has, which is indicative of their dental care, seems to be a contributing factor for the development of different types of vision-endangering glaucoma.

Dental Care Tips for Healthy Eyes

Based on the evidence, and what we’ve observed in patients that come into the Brazos Eye Center, a better total vision program also needs to include good dental hygiene habits. For that reason, Dr. Le strongly recommends to her eye care patients that they also practice these dental care tips:

  • Seeing a licensed dentist every six months for follow-up exams and preventative cleanings
  • Brushing their teeth at least twice daily, and flossing once per day
  • Rinsing their mouth daily with a mouthwash that targets disease-causing bacteria
  • Having old mercury fillings replaced with newer, safer materials
  • Getting existing gingivitis or gum disease promptly treated
  • Having root canal therapy performed on a badly diseased tooth

Your Better Vision Source in Rosenberg, TX

When it comes to your dental care, make sure to visit one of the many fine dentists in the Rosenberg area. To ensure a lifetime of better vision for you and your family, schedule an annual eye exam with Dr. Quynh Hoa Le, OD, at the Brazos Eye Center. As an established optometric practice, our office has all the reliable products and services that you need. Dr. Le and the staff here love the patients we see, and always have room for one more! To book an appointment today with Dr. Le, please call the Brazos Eye Center at: 832-757-1771.

Citations for this article:

Cataract: http://amalgam.org/education/scientific-evidenceresearch/eye-problems-related-mercury/

study: https://journals.lww.com/glaucomajournal/Abstract/2017/04000/A_Pilot_Study_to_Evaluate_the_Oral_Microbiome_and.5.aspx