Oral health is so important to your overall health—which is a fact that the majority of the general public is simply not aware of.
This brief article takes insights from my local Boston dentist Dr. Steven Shapiro to give you an informative article outlining how the health of your teeth, mouth, and gums affect overall your health and how it can define your day-to-day life.
What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?
Your mouth is similar to other areas of your body in terms of containing lots of bacteria—many are good but the majority of them are harmful bacteria.
As the entry point to your respiratory and digestive systems, your mouth is the access point for many disease-carrying bacteria. And if it is not properly managed, it can lead to more serious diseases.
Bacteria levels can generally be kept under control through standard daily oral hygiene practices such as brushing your teeth and flossing. However, in some cases, with excessive levels of harmful bacteria, painful oral infections such as gum disease and tooth decay can arise.
Additionally, some well-known medications such as painkillers, antidepressants, and antihistamines can reduce the flow of saliva within the mouth. The importance of saliva is huge—as it allows food to smoothly enter your digestive system and neutralizes the acidic properties of mouth bacteria—this is crucial for disease prevention.
Some studies exist showing a causal relationship between oral bacteria and other serious diseases including HIV/AIDS and diabetes. Contraction of these diseases weakens the immune system, thereby increasing future risks of contracting gum disease.
What conditions can be attributed to oral health?
Some of the diseases that poor oral health can lead to include:
- Endocarditis: Caused by an infection of your heart valves after harmful bacteria enters the body, Endocarditis most commonly comes from the mouth. Germs can get into the bloodstream and latch onto the heart.
- Cardiovascular disease: Some evidence suggests that oral bacterial infections can increase chances of clogged arteries, therefore leading to heart disease or strokes.
- Pregnancy and birth complications: Birth complications such as premature birth or low weight birth can be attributed to Periodontitis, which results from poor oral hygiene.
- Pneumonia: Harmful bacteria that enter your mouth can spread to your lungs, causing serious conditions such as pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.
There also some conditions which may affect your oral health, these include:
- Diabetes: One of the side effects of diabetes is the reduction in power of the body’s immune system. Evidence suggests that those with diabetes are much more likely to get oral disease. However, regular dental check-ups and basic hygiene minimize risks and can help prevent it from happening.
- HIV/AIDS: Among those with HIV/AIDS, oral health problems such as mucosal lesions are much common. This disease also weakens the immune system, making mouth disease more common.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones across the body and can affect tooth loss. Some of the treatments for osteoporosis are also known to risk jaw damage.
- Alzheimer’s disease: An expected sign of the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s disease is poorer oral health.
Even if you don’t have one of the diseases or conditions mentioned, oral health can be linked to many other ailments including cancers, eating disorders, and arthritis. Therefore, it is always worthwhile to have a check-up with your dentist or doctor in case you contract any form of mouth or gum disease.
How can I protect my oral health?
There are a variety of ways in which you can protect your oral health and get in a routine of practicing good oral hygiene, these include:
- Brushing your teeth twice per day using fluoride toothpaste
- Daily flossing
- Swirling mouthwash after brushing and flossing to remove the minute food particles that can’t be otherwise reached
- Reducing added sugars in your diet
- Replacing your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles are worn
- Visiting the dentist at least every 6 months
- Avoid smoking
In cases of emergency, contact your dentist to schedule an immediate appointment and reduce chances of long lasting damage. Good oral health equals good overall wellness.
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