Guest Post by: Diana Smith
Good oral hygiene is important, so we have to brush our teeth and see our dentist regularly. These are some of the good habits our parents established for us at our earliest age. But, is oral hygiene connected to our overall health? And if so, how are they connected? They are, and here’s how.
Your saliva can be a good indicator of your overall body condition. For example, when a baby is born, their stress response can be tested by measuring cortisol levels in their saliva. People with osteoporosis can monitor their bone loss by analyzing some bone-specific protein fragments inside their saliva. Saliva tests can help measure certain hormones and antibodies, which are, among others, indicators of HIV infection. It can even be tested for illegal drugs and some environmental toxins. Also, saliva contains helpful antibodies, which defend you from viral pathogens, ranging from the common cold to HIV. Other than these antibodies, there are proteins in your saliva which limit the growth of Candida albicans, a fungus that can cause a serious infection. The enzymes from your saliva fight various bacteria in your mouth, protecting you from certain bacterial diseases. So, one can say that saliva has diagnostic, as well as protective properties.
If bacteria build up on your teeth due to poor oral hygiene, your gums are more likely to get infected. This can lead to inflammation which can affect the gums so badly, that you get gingivitis, and/or eventually periodontitis. This is an infection that causes damage to the soft tissue and teeth-supporting bone, which further means you could even lose your teeth. However, the problems don’t stop there. Periodontal disease might even be linked to some serious conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia or premature birth. The connection may be caused by oral bacteria finding its way into your bloodstream, injuring some of your vital organs in the process. Also, mouth inflammation could be the cause of blood vessel inflammation, which can raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Inflammation and infection might interfere with the development of fetuses in pregnant women, increasing the risk of premature birth. Not to mention that gum disease is one of the complications of diabetes. Diabetes may affect blood vessels, decreasing blood flow, which can weaken your gums and make them more prone to infection. Also, high blood sugar levels can encourage development of bacteria on your gums. So, if you notice your gums are swollen, tender or bleeding, visit your dentist as soon as possible. Whether you’re there to get a tooth fixed or want to undergo teeth straightening, your dentist will be able to tell you if there are other oral health issues you should address.
How to avoid the problems
There are several risk factors for oral health. For example, you will have a higher chance of getting periodontitis if you’re older, a smoker, obese, a substance abuser, or you have diseases like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. Your diet is a very important aspect of the whole story. Bad diet can lead to obesity, which might open a Pandora’s box of diseases and conditions, like coronary heart disease, stroke, or even cancer. Plus, eating food with high amounts of added sugar can directly cause dental caries. So what can you do? Start with your oral hygiene. Brush your teeth after each meal, floss them and use mouth wash when you don’t have time to brush. Don’t wait for a toothache to visit your dentist. Get regular check-ups with them to keep your teeth and gums healthy and functional. Try getting rid of some bad habits, such as drinking alcohol, smoking or a bad diet. Breathe through your nose. Your nose is a little filter for all the nasty stuff in the air. Since bacteria can enter the bloodstream through your mouth, breathing through your nose might help avoid this to some extent. Work hard on boosting your immune system. A strong immune system means a strong body, more resilient to the bacteria that can lead to gum disease. So, get enough rest, eat healthy food, drink plenty of water and avoid stress.
Don’t think about your oral health as something disconnected from your overall health. Remember that your mouth is not a separate organism. It’s a part of your body, where everything is connected, so taking good care of your mouth means taking good care of yourself.