The Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health: 6 Things You Should Know
When oral health is on your mind, most people think of things like cavities—things that affect their teeth and gum tissue, at least—rarely (if ever) connecting the condition of their mouths to their overall well-being.
However, the mouth is the primary portal of entry for both necessary oxygen and the nutrients the body needs to survive, and as more studies show that good oral health is directly connected to overall health, routine dental visits are more important to keep up with than ever before.
The link between your mouth and overall health.
The connection between your oral and overall health isn’t made up to promote business in the dental industry: The two are, indeed, physically connected.
Your mouth has approximately six million bacteria living within it at any given moment, and most of those are harmless, so long as you practice good oral hygiene. Lacking an adequate mouth care routine leads to tooth decay and causes bacteria to multiply, enter the bloodstream, and travel to other parts of the body.
In particular, the bacteria and inflammation related to gum disease can directly affect other areas of your body, primarily via attaching to the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves. These can then become infected, causing a severe condition known as endocarditis.
Other ways your oral health is connected to your overall health.
Gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer are all chronic oral health conditions that directly impact the rest of the body. With that in mind, understanding how your mouth’s health correlates to various other underlying conditions will help you learn how to keep them from developing in the first place.
1. Heart Disease
Improper oral hygiene causes plaque to form on your teeth, and when it’s not routinely removed, it leads to gum disease, which can cause the plaque to travel throughout your body and trigger inflammation in the heart, contributing to heart disease. People with gum disease are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
Your oral health also contributes to your respiratory health, as oral bacteria can be inhaled and thus travel into the lungs. A healthy immune system can keep you from getting sick, but your lungs can still become inflamed when compromised, leading to pneumonia and the worsening of certain conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
3. Pregnancy Complications
Poor oral health during pregnancy can create risks for both mother and child. Hormonal changes make pregnant women more susceptible to cavities and gum disease, which, in turn, can be linked to low birth weight or preterm birth.
4. Alzheimer’s Disease
Much like how the plaque found in the heart’s arteries can be traced back to the mouth, so too is the plaque found in the brain. An abundance of plaque in your mouth causes it to travel through the bloodstream and toward the brain, triggering the onset of conditions, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, patients with gum disease are four times as likely to develop the latter in the future.
Perhaps most unnerving is that patients with poor oral hygiene are at a significantly higher risk of developing oral, liver, and gastrointestinal cancer. Some emerging studies even show that the same bacteria that causes tooth decay is related to the formation of colon cancer.
6. Other Conditions
Although there is still a lot of research that must be done, other conditions that may be connected to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder that causes chronic dry mouth.
Proper oral care is essential to maintaining long-term health.
The mouth can provide plenty of insight regarding what’s going on inside your body, which means routine dental services should be a top priority. They can help slow the progression of tooth decay and gum disease while reducing the risks associated with heart disease, pregnancy, and other systemic diseases. Your dentist will also complete an oral cancer screening during these appointments.
Nevertheless, protecting your health extends beyond the dentist’s office, though, as having a good home care routine is equally important. Brush twice and floss once daily to remove any plaque or food particles in your mouth, replace your toothbrush between every three and four months (sooner if the bristles are visibly worn), avoid tobacco use, and maintain a healthy diet.
Schedule your visit with a family dentist near Virginia Beach.
One of the best ways to ensure your overall health stays on the right track is to take care of your oral health. Schedule an appointment for routine care with your family dentist for X-rays of your teeth and a thorough evaluation to determine the status of your oral health. It’s also a perfect opportunity for you to discuss any concerns you may have. Look no further if you’re searching for a friendly, high-quality dental team, and call King Dental today. Schedule your new patient evaluation and make an investment in your overall health!