A dental emergency can strike at any time and with no warning. Perhaps a person is playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and a family member decides to up the ante and a tackle comes into play, accidentally knocking out two front teeth. Or maybe on vacation in the tropics, someone decides to…
The Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health
Practicing good oral hygiene not only maintains your oral health, but it also impacts your overall health — which is why the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day and seeing the dentist regularly.
Your dentist can spot symptoms of overall health problems during a routine dental exam, allowing you to treat issues early and prevent major problems down the line. Failure to practice good oral hygiene can also lead to overall health problems because of the link between your oral health and overall health.
The connection between your oral health and overall health
Your mouth, like other parts of your body, contains a lot of bacteria, most of which are harmless. When you practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and flossing daily, you keep the bacteria in check. When you fail to practice proper oral hygiene, the bacteria left unchecked can lead to infections, tooth decay and gum disease.
Taking medications such as painkillers, antidepressants and antihistamines can reduce the flow of saliva in your mouth. Your saliva neutralizes acids produced by bacteria and helps to protect you from a microbial invasion that can lead to disease.
Research has shown that the inflammation and oral bacteria that are associated with the gum disease periodontitis might play a role in some diseases that affect your overall health. Having diseases like HIV/AIDS and diabetes can lower your body’s resistance to infection, which makes your oral health problems more severe.
What medical conditions can be caused by poor oral health?
Failure to practice good oral hygiene can lead to a lot of health problems, including:
- Cardiovascular disease: Research has shown that strokes, heart disease and clogged arteries can be linked to the inflammation and infection caused by severe gum disease
- Endocarditis: This is an infection that affects the inner lining of your heart. The condition occurs when bacteria from your mouth spread through your bloodstream and then attach to the damaged parts of your heart
- Premature birth and low birth weight: Research has shown that periodontitis can cause premature birth and low birth weight in pregnant women if the disease is left untreated
What existing health conditions can affect your oral health?
- Osteoporosis: This is a condition that causes the bones in your body to become weak. The disease can also affect your jaw bone, causing the loss of bone density in your jaw and leading to the loss of your teeth
- HIV/AIDS: People who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS tend to have oral problems because of the oral lesions caused by the disease
- Diabetes: Having diabetes can cause oral health problems because the disease reduces the body’s ability to resist infection, which puts your gums at risk. According to research, people who have diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than those who do not have the disease because they have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels
Protecting your oral health
The best way to protect your oral health is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss regularly and use mouthwash. You should also avoid tobacco products and see your dentist at least twice a year.
Your oral health and general health are linked to one another, which means you should practice good dental hygiene to prevent future health problems. If you want to know more about the link between your oral and general health, talk to your dentist to get more information.
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