Oral health is known as “a window to your overall health.” Below we explain this connection to your general wellness, the signs of poor dental health, the potential consequences, and more.
The Connection to Overall Health
Even though it may be unpleasant to think about, the mouth is full of bacteria. Majority of this bacteria is harmless, but as the entry point to both the digestive system and respiratory tract, there is potential for some of this bacteria to cause disease and/or illness.
Typically, the body’s natural defenses, in combination with proper oral hygiene, keep the levels of bacteria under control. However, if there is a lack of oral care, an infection can occur (such as tooth decay and gum disease). Research suggests that such oral bacteria is linked to inflammation, which may play a role in certain serious conditions, as inflammation is the root of all chronic illnesses. Moreover, conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS can lower the body’s ability to fight infection, worsening oral health problems.
Studies also suggest that certain medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics, and antidepressants can reduce saliva flow. Because saliva helps eliminate food particles and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, a decrease in saliva can hinder the body’s ability to fight microbes that can lead to disease.
Conditions that can be Impacted by Your Oral Health
Interestingly, oral health is particularly representative of cardiovascular health. As a result, endocarditis is commonly associated with poor dental health. This condition is described as an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves and typically occurs when bacteria from another part of the body (such as the mouth).
Similarly, there is a correlation between pneumonia as well as other respiratory diseases due to the fact that oral bacteria can travel from the mouth into the lungs.
Cardiovascular disease is also associated with poor oral hygiene, although experts are not exactly sure why. Some hypothesize that it is because clogged arteries and a stroke may be linked to the inflammation and infection that oral bacteria can cause.
Moreover, periodontitis or inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Conditions that can Compromise Your Oral Health
Because the body is interconnected, just as your oral health can impact other bodily systems, they can impact your oral health.
Certain conditions that might affect your oral health include: Diabetes: Diabetes compromises the body’s ability to fight infection, putting your gums at risk. Studies show that gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. There is also a link between those who have gum disease and difficulty controlling blood sugar levels.
Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal (maintenance of the tissues surrounding the teeth) care can improve diabetes control.
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is another condition that is associated with compromised oral health. Because osteoporosis impacts bone health, it can lead to the loss of periodontal bones and even tooth loss.
HIV/AIDS: This condition is also known to cause oral health problems due to the fact that this virus impairs immune health. When the immune system is compromised, bacteria in the mouth can cause painful mucosal lesions.
Alzheimer’s disease: It has been observed that the worsening of oral health as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. It is unclear as to why, but given that oral health is a reflection of overall health, it is not surprising it is compromised with a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.
Protecting Your Oral Health Practicing proper oral hygiene is critical in protecting your oral health. Below are some of our tips on maintaining good oral health:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time. For those with thyroid problems, consider using a fluoride-free toothpaste to protect your thyroid health as well (fluoride can disrupt thyroid function).
- Flossing daily is critical to oral health because brushing only cleans around 70% of the surface area of the teeth.
- Using a Tongue scraper is a fast way to remove extra bacteria from the surface of your tongue. It is important to note that the majority of “bad breath” actually comes from the tongue so a tongue scraper helps prevent this as well.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks as they can deteriorate tooth enamel.
- Avoid tobacco use as it can cause a buildup of plaque on your teeth.
- Schedule regular visits with your dentist as advised and contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises.
Remember, taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.