Why is oral health important for overall health?
Just like other parts of our body, our mouths are full of bacteria, although mostly harmless. The mouth is the entry point to your respiratory system and digestive tract where some of these bacteria can cause disease.
A lot of times, our body’s natural defenses are oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing can keep the bacteria under control. When oral hygiene is inadequate, bacteria can reach levels that can lead to infections in the oral cavity such as gum disease and tooth decay.
Certain medications can have side effects that can lead to decreasing the flow of saliva. Saliva washes away food and neutralize acids which are produced by bacteria in your mouth, which helps protect from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.
Studies have shown that bacteria in your mouth and inflammation associated with severe forms of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some disease. Certain disease such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS can lower the body’s ability to fight infections, making oral health problems more severe.
What medical conditions can be linked to oral health?
Oral health can contribute to various conditions and diseases:
Pneumonia: Some bacteria from your mouth can be pulled into the lungs and cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases
Cardiovascular disease: The connection is not fully understood but some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to inflammation and infection that oral bacteria can cause.
Endocarditis: This is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves. It typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of the body, such as the mouth, spread to the blood stream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
Pregnancy and birth complications: Severe gum disease (periodontitis) has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth.
Medical conditions that can affect your oral health:
Diabetes: Diabetes reduces our body’s ability to fight infections and this can put your gums at risk. Gum disease is more frequent and severe among patients with diabetes.
Having gum disease can also make it harder to control blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can help improve control of diabetes.
HIV/AIDS: Painful oral lesions are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
Osteoporosis: This is a disease which weakness your bones and is linked to periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
Alzheimer’s disease: Oral health worsens with progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Certain other conditions that are linked to oral health include: eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, Sjogren’s syndrome (auto-immune disease that causes dry mouth).
It is important to share with your dentist information about your current medications, changes to overall health and any chronic medical conditions.
How can I protect my oral health?
Practicing good oral hygiene daily can protect your overall health.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and using a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss daily
- Using mouth wash is great and helps remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit food with added sugars.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Avoid tobacco use.
Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health. We are here to take care of your oral health problems.