KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Problems in your mouth can affect your health in ways you may not have thought about. In fact, one Knoxville man nearly died, despite his dentist's warning.
John Roth is no stranger these days to the dental chair.
The youthful 70-year-old receives regular cleanings after a lifetime of not exactly following dentist's orders.
It almost cost him his life.
"I was holding a drink, talking to someone, and the drink dropped out of my hand," Roth said. "I couldn't say a word, then, that's when I knew I had a big problem."
It was last August when Roth suffered a major stroke.
His dentist, Dr. Stephen Malone, had warned Roth two months earlier that his tooth trouble was a sign of another serious problem with his overall health.
Diseases linked with poor dental hygiene
- Premature birth - Diabetes - Osteoporosis - An infection of the inner lining of your heart called endocarditis. It can happen when bacteria from your mouth spread through your blood stream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. - Tooth loss before the age of 35 might be a risk factor for Alzheimer's Disease.
"Things didn't look right," Dr. Malone recalled.
Research suggests that clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to inflammation and infections caused by bacteria in the mouth.
Normally your body's immune system and good oral hygiene can keep bacteria under control, but unchecked it can reach dangerous levels leading to trouble.
John Roth is not alone.
"I see more decay today than I did ten years ago," Dr. Malone said.
He says sugary soft drinks are a major culprit.
"We see people that can be fine and six months later have ten cavities and I'll start asking questions and they'll just be drinking soft drinks all day long," he said.
If you sip on a soda all day without brushing your teeth afterward, you could be at risk for heart disease.
After his brush with death, John Roth has cleaned up his diet and dental care.
"He's doing really well, but there was a time when we didn't know if we were going to win this battle," Dr. Malone said.
Now, Roth is enjoying life including the pleasant side effects of new healthy habits.
"I've lost 25 pounds and I feel like I'm 30! Honest," he said, laughing.