Your oral health is an indicator of your systemic health. In fact, your mouth is among the core components of your immune system. It is an entry point not just for nutrients but bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and your saliva is integral to preventing those microorganisms from getting any further.
A Window to Your Total Health
Most people appreciate the importance of brushing and flossing when it comes to preventing gum disease and tooth decay and enjoying one’s teeth long into their golden years. But the importance of oral health extends beyond the mouth to your heart and even your brain. Modern medicine links poor oral health to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, premature births, and much more.
To understand why this connection exists, consider that your mouth is a microbiome in which hundreds of distinct bacteria species are interacting. A balanced microbiome is essential to your good health. Regular brushing and flossing help to keep the bad bacteria in check. If you are lax with your oral hygiene, then those bacteria levels can get out of whack. In terms of your teeth and gums, plaque is a major concern. Saliva, bacteria, and food particles interact to create a sticky substance that houses bacteria and secretes acids and will eventually lead to infections, gum disease, and tooth decay.
The Link Between Oral Hygiene and Systemic Health
Gum disease leads to tooth loss but also contributes to and exacerbates a wide range of health issues. Even where a direct link is not yet recognized, gum disease can be considered a risk factor due to the high prevalence in such patients. Let us consider gum disease and some major health issues.
Gum disease has long been connected to diabetes. Diabetes makes you more prone to gum disease. Gum disease disrupts the processing of insulin, and so destabilizes blood sugar levels, and recent research has even indicated the potential for reverse causation. The relationship between periodontitis and diabetes leads to a nasty cycle, with one condition feeding off the other. People with diabetes have to take great care in managing their oral health in order to avoid serious health complications.
The American Heart Association recently promoted a study in which it was found that people with poor oral health were three times more prone to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. In the AHA journal Hypertension, a distinct study found that gum disease not only increased blood pressure but may disrupt the effect of medicines intended to treat Hypertension. When you have gum disease, your body is in a constant state of inflammation, which increases your risk of various cardiovascular and other diseases.
Endocarditis is a relatively rare inflammation of the inner heart, but it is life-threatening, and people with heart disease are more prone to it. Among the leading causes is gum disease, which leads to gums being inflamed and bleeding. Bleeding gums provide an opportunity for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream. That oral bacteria can reach the inner lining of the heart and create an infection.
A well-documented link between pneumonia and oral health exists. Air travels through your mouth and throat—where it can pick up various oral bacteria—before reaching the lungs. This can cause infections that lead to pneumonia and other respiratory conditions. Seniors are particularly at risk, and various studies have shown that improved oral care in nursing homes can reduce pneumonia rates. Doctors often recommend gargling with a therapeutic oral rinse in addition to brushing and flossing.
Not only should women manage their oral health prior to getting pregnant, it is important they be aware that pregnancy makes them more prone to gum disease due to the raised hormone levels. Women should consult with their dentists as soon as pregnancy is confirmed. Even gingivitis—which is the earliest and least severe form of gum disease—increased the risk of low birth weights and premature births. Mothers with gum disease can even pass the disease onto the unborn child.
Good Oral Hygiene and the Big Picture
There is a fundamental relationship between your oral health and your total health. People who practice good oral hygiene are not only healthier but live longer too. Perhaps the most common mistake that the average adult makes is skipping regular dental checkups and cleanings. A regular dental visit is imperative to great health through better oral care but also through early diagnosis of potential health issues.
Protect Your Health With Regular Dental Visits
Great oral health starts at home with regular brushing and flossing. But you also need to visit your dentist at least twice a year to have your teeth cleaned and to get a routine checkup. The checkups performed by Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, are comprehensive and extend beyond the mouth to the neck and head. These exams enable Dr. Clark to provide early diagnoses of a wide range of health issues. Call 480 585 1853 today to schedule your next appointment at Scottsdale Dental Excellence.