Good dental or oral care is not only important to maintaining healthy teeth, gums and tongue, but it is also vital in maintaining your overall health.
Did you know your oral health can offer clues about your overall health — or problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Understand the intimate connection between oral health and overall health and what you can do to protect yourself.
Oral problems, including bad breath, dry mouth, tooth decay, or any other oral issues must be treated with proper diagnosis and care before the issue becomes worse and leads to other problems in the body.
Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
The mouth is a window into the health of the body. It can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection. For example, systemic diseases—those affect the entire body, such as diabetes, AIDS and Sjögren’s syndrome—may first become apparent because of
mouth lesions or other oral problems. The mouth is filled with countless bacteria, some linked to tooth decay and periodontal (gum)
disease. Researchers have found periodontitis (the advanced form of periodontal disease can cause tooth loss) is linked with other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.
Several studies link chronic inflammation from periodontitis with the development of cardiovascular problems. Some evidence suggests
oral bacteria may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages and stroke. People with diabetes often have periodontal disease. In addition, there is evidence people with diabetes are more likely to develop and have more severe periodontitis than those without diabetes. Some studies suggest periodontitis can make it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar. Given the potential link between periodontitis and systemic health problems, prevention is an important step in maintaining overall health and brushing and flossing alone isn’t enough.
Schedule regular dental checkups. Professional cleanings are the only way to remove calculus (tartar), which traps plaque bacteria along the gum line. If you notice any of these signs, see a dentist: