Over the last few years, researchers in various medical schools and colleges have been studying a possible link between tooth infections and eye diseases. Specifically, Open Angle Glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, is the primary focus of study with respect to connections to insufficient oral hygiene.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases of the optic nerve that slowly cause loss of vision. It’s the consequence of fluid build up in the front of the eye. This build up of fluid puts pressure on the eye, which in turn causes damage to the optic nerve.
Will a Tooth Infection Make Me Go Blind?
Louis Pasquale, MD, from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard Medical School in Boston, published a study that shows evidence connected tooth infections with the formation of glaucoma. Infection and inflammation at the base of the tooth could release inflammatory agents which travel to the eye and begin the formation of fluid buildup.
And in a study recently published in the Journal of Glaucoma, it was indicated that “the number of teeth (an oral health indicator) and alterations in the amounts of oral bacteria may be associated with glaucoma pathology.”
OK, but will I go blind if I don’t take care of my teeth?
Well, it’s doubtful that a tooth infection will lead directly to blindness. Just because you have a lingering toothache doesn’t mean you’ll wake up blind one morning. However, there does seem to be compelling evidence that glaucoma can result from oral infections that are allowed to go untreated. It makes sense to me that a tooth infection (particularly in the upper jaw) can spread upwards into the eyes.
But as I pointed out in last week’s blog post, letting a tooth infection go untreated can lead to death through sepsis. I believe sepsis will occur from an ignored infection long before glaucoma comes around. But then again, each person’s body reacts differently to infections.
What if you already have Glaucoma?
If you have already been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s even more important to address oral infections…
- Maintain regular dental cleanings to keep your mouth healthy and lower your chance of infection. Make sure to schedule twice-a-year visits for cleanings.
- If you already have gum disease, get it treated right away.
- If you are scheduled for a dental procedure that requires sedation, be sure to tell your dentist that you have glaucoma.
- You should avoid taking sedatives that contain ingredients known to interact with the optic nerve. Be sure your dentist is also aware of any medications you are taking before you schedule any dental treatment.