A healthy smile can improve your life and overall wellness. However, a healthy smile means more than having white, seemingly clean teeth. When it comes to your oral health, your teeth, gums, tongue, and entire mouth play essential roles in the health and function of the body. Every part of the body needs to be cared for because our body's systems are interconnected. A healthy mouth and excellent oral hygiene can do wonders for your smile, but it can keep the rest of your body happy and healthy too.
What's the Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health?
There is an undeniable connection between oral health and overall health. Research and ongoing studies show that numerous health conditions and diseases are tied to oral health and oral hygiene. Healthy teeth and gums are essential for overall wellness.
The mouth is home to 700 species of microbes, which include bacteria, fungi, and more. Many of the bacteria in our mouths are harmless, but our mouths are also the entry point to our respiratory and digestive tracts. Some bacteria can cause disease and travel from the mouth to other areas of the body.
The body's natural defences and maintaining excellent oral health care can help keep harmful bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene––daily brushing and flossing––the bacteria can reach levels that may result in oral infections, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Additionally, certain medications that reduce saliva flow––such as pain relievers, antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, and diuretics––can result in decay, gum disease, and disease. Saliva plays a vital role because it washes away food debris and neutralizes acids produced by oral bacteria. Ultimately, saliva helps protect us from oral microbes that can multiply and have a negative impact on our health.
Studies suggest that oral bacteria and inflammation from gum disease can lead to or worsen some conditions. Certain diseases, like HIV/AIDS and diabetes, can lower the body's resistance to infection and make oral health problems even more severe.
What Conditions Can Be Linked to Oral Health?
Oral health can contribute to various conditions and diseases, such as:
- Endocarditis—This condition is an infection of the heart chambers' inner lining that occurs when bacteria or other germs spread through the bloodstream and attach to some areas of the heart.
- Cardiovascular disease—Research suggests plaque on the teeth can be connected to plaque in the arteries. Heart disease, stroke, and clogged arteries are linked to oral inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria.
- Pregnancy and birth complications—Periodontitis (gum disease) has been connected to low birth weight and premature birth.
- Pneumonia—Certain oral bacteria can travel to the lungs, resulting in respiratory diseases and pneumonia.
Certain medical conditions also might impact your oral health:
- Diabetes—Diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection, which puts your gums at risk for infection and disease. Research shows that gum disease appears more frequently and severely among those with diabetes, and people with gum disease have a more challenging time controlling their blood sugar levels. Routine periodontal care from your dentist can help improve diabetes and gum disease, keeping these conditions under control.
- HIV/AIDS—Painful mucosal lesions and other oral issues are common in people with HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis—Osteoporosis weakens the bones and is linked with periodontal tooth loss and bone loss. Likewise, certain medications for osteoporosis have a risk of damaging oral bones, such as the jaws.
- Alzheimer's disease—As Alzheimer's disease progresses, oral health often worsens.
Many other conditions are often linked to oral health, such as rheumatoid arthritis, eating disorders, Crohn's disease, Sjogren's syndrome, certain cancers, and immune system disorders.
If you have any changes in medications or overall health changes, we suggest informing your dentist. This is especially encouraged if you've been ill or have a chronic condition.
How Can I Protect My Oral Health?
Practising good oral hygiene every day can protect your oral health. Dentists recommend doing the following to maintain excellent dental hygiene:
- Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and gently scrub your teeth with fluoride toothpaste or a toothpaste your dentist recommends.
- Floss at least once daily to dislodge food particles and plaque. Flossing also stimulates the gums and protects you against gum disease.
- Rinse with mouthwash to flush away leftover food debris after flossing and brushing.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit your intake of sugary drinks and foods.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, after being ill, or when the bristles become worn or splayed.
- Avoid smoking and using tobacco.
Schedule routine dental exams and cleanings so the dentist can monitor your oral health and professionally clean your teeth. Only a dentist or hygienist can thoroughly remove plaque buildup from the teeth, gumline, and other nooks and crannies in your mouth that you can't reach at home.
If any oral health issues arise, please get in touch with your dentist. Caring for your oral health is an investment in your general health and improved quality of life.
Preventive Dentistry in Vancouver, BC
Alta Dental Studio offers comprehensive dentistry, including preventive dental care to reduce patients' risks of diseases. Our dentists can help you attain optimal oral health so you can enjoy a healthier and happier body. We invite you to book an appointment with us today.