Good Oral Health And The Benefits To Your Overall Health
There are many studies on how good oral hygiene can prevent tooth loss, gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay, but did you know it can also be the key to your overall health. So what does the health of your mouth have to do with your overall health? Well, the answer is more than you think! A healthy mouth can decrease your risk of many medical disorders, but an unhealthy mouth, may increase your risk of many serious health problems such as poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preterm low birth weight babies.
Not only can chronic gum disease increase the risk of these health problems, but these health problems can also increase the risk of periodontal disease. They go hand in hand with each other, which is why it is so important to take care of yourself and your oral health.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the above topics briefly:
- Poorly controlled diabetes; Good blood glucose levels are the key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled. Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups and good blood glucose control are the best defense against the oral complications of diabetes (1). Undetected diabetes can often first be detected in your mouth by a fruity odor, dry mouth causing soreness, ulcers, infections, or tooth decay. Conversely, having inflammation of your gums can make it difficult to control your blood sugar.
- Cardiovascular disease; Oral inflammation due to bacteria (gingivitis) may also play a role in clogged arteries and blood clots, as well as cause inflammation throughout the entire body, including the arteries. This inflammation is a base for the development of atherosclerotic (hardened) plaque in the arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke (2). Your gums are extremely vascular (full of blood vessels) and your mouth is full of bacteria, so when you disrupt the gum layer brushing and flossing that bacteria then gets into to your bloodstream, which can go anywhere and trigger inflammation throughout the body. That inflammation can cause damage to the blood vessels, including the heart (3).
- Preterm/ low birth weight babies; Hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy make your gums more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque causing the risk of pregnancy gingivitis. If the gingivitis becomes severe, it can increase the risk of preterm low birth weight babies. Oral bacteria releases toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother’s blood stream and interfere with the growth and development of the fetus. As this is occurring, the oral infection causes the mother to produce labor- triggering substances too quickly, which is what potentially triggers the premature labor & birth (4).This is why it’s so important for expecting mothers to have good oral hygiene habits. Brushing and flossing daily are the #1 way to prevent gum disease during pregnancy because it removes the bacteria under the gums and in your mouth, which reduces the inflammation of gingivitis. A few other additional natural ways to help decrease the risk of pregnancy gingivitis are, increasing your Vitamin C intake by eating more fruits, increasing Vitamin A intake as well as swishing with sea salt in warm water. Vitamin C can help combat the bacteria that builds in your mouth (remember not to graze on it as that will increase your risk of cavities) and Vitamin A can help bones and teeth grow, just make sure to pay attention to the upper limits of Vitamin A (5).
Daily routine of brushing, flossing and using mouth rinse will help keep your overall health its healthiest. Ask your dental hygienist which dental products are best for you. If you don’t have one, then come visit me at Parker River Dental, in Byfield MA. I try to customize all of my patients’ homecare needs to them and what they need, at the same time, keeping in mind what they are willing to do. You can also decrease your risk and help yourself by coming in for 3 or 6 month cleaning appointments. Patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, cardiovascular disease or are pregnant are recommended to come in for 3 month prophylaxis. There are a few dental insurance companies who will pay for those patients to have prophys more often as a preventive service.
Your mouth is the window into what’s going on inside the rest of your body. So I want you to ask yourself if you are at risk for any of the above? Are you doing everything you can to decrease your risks of the above health factors? If the answer is Yes, then great job and keep up the good work! If the answer is No, then flip over that new leaf today! It is never too late to get a fresh start!
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn