The answer is, yes. Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but your mouth is the window to your overall health. Regular brushing and flossing help eliminate many diseases and other medical disorders that affect not just your mouth, but your entire body. Your mouth harbors more than 500 kinds of bacteria, which sounds incredibly gross, but some are actually good for your oral health while others can cause decay and create other medical conditions.
What does my oral health have to do with overall health?
You might not believe it, but a doctor can tell a lot about your health just by taking a peek in your mouth or swabbing some saliva. The condition of your mouth is very closely related to your overall health; in fact, many researchers link poor oral hygiene to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even premature birth.
Did you know that your mouth is an infection source?
Yes, you read that right. If you don’t brush regularly, the bacteria left in your mouth will develop plaque; which is a colorless, sticky film that usually settles on tooth crevices. This can be minimized or avoided entirely through proper brushing and flossing between your teeth. It can only be removed by a dental hygienist with specialized tools. Over time, plaque can cause tooth decay and tartar buildup, which can lead to gum disease. Gingivitis is the first stage of infection. If left untreated and poor oral hygiene continues, it can lead to an advanced condition called periodontitis and could develop into trench mouth. Trench mouth is as gross as it sounds; a condition where the gums are so severely infected that the tissue is dying.
Although trench mouth is rarer in developed countries, it is sadly common in developing countries with inferior living conditions and poor nutrition.
Common conditions linked to oral health
Studies have found that oral health contributes to many serious conditions, including:
- Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart, or endocardium, which usually occurs when bacteria from your mouth or other parts of the body spread into your bloodstream and eventually attach to damaged areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease. Some studies link oral bacteria to heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke because bacteria can enter the bloodstream through infected mouth sores.
- Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis is linked to low birth weight and premature birth.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes have lower resistance to infection, making their gums more likely to get infected. Some research has also shown that those suffering from gum disease have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels and that periodontal care has been found helpful in diabetes control.
- HIV/AIDS. Oral lesions are extremely painful and common in people with HIV/AIDS.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Oral health worsens as Alzheimer’s disease progresses and the patient begins forgetting to brush and floss.
Other conditions like osteoporosis, head and neck cancers, eating disorders and arthritis, are also linked to oral health.
How can I prevent infections and protect my oral health?
Good oral habits should be practiced daily to prevent gum infections and diseases. Examples of these habits are:
- Brush your teeth twice a day or every after a meal with fluoride toothpaste recommended by your dentist.
- Floss at least daily to prevent plaque and tartar buildup in between your teeth.
- Avoid sugary foods and snacks. Opt for healthier meals and snacks.
- Quit smoking.
- Change your toothbrush regularly – at least every four months, or as soon as the bristles are frayed.
Make dental appointments regularly. A dentist visit is recommended at least twice a year, or whenever you notice any problems in your mouth. Invest in your oral health to prevent problems and boost your overall wellness.
Sunshine’s dental program has a full scope of treatments ranging from preventative care and initial pediatric “first visits” to full mouth rehabilitation. You can contact Sunshine Dental by phone at (907) 733-2273 or through the messaging feature in your patient portal.