Your eyes may be a window to your soul, but your mouth is a window to your overall health. See how everything from the foods you eat to your oral hygiene habits can affect your whole-body wellbeing as well as your teeth and gums.
The Relationship Between Oral Health and Whole-Body Health
Your mouth is the way many substances enter your body: food, drink, air. Your mouth also contains bacteria, which is generally controlled by oral hygiene habits. Bacteria in the mouth can make its way to other points in the body and cause or exacerbate disease.
Conversely, some medications that you take can impact your oral health by reducing the flow of saliva. When you don’t have enough saliva, it can encourage the growth of bacteria in your mouth. Saliva also washes food off your teeth, which can reduce the odds of cavities and other oral health problems. Typically, you will enjoy good oral health if you keep up with daily flossing and brushing. If you fall behind, you could develop cavities, gum disease, or tooth decay.
Studies show that there is a relationship between bacteria in the mouth, inflammation, and gum disease, which can further exacerbate some physical health diseases. Conversely, some chronic health conditions, including diabetes, can reduce the body’s ability to fight off infections. This can make oral and physical health problems more severe than they might have been.
Chronic Conditions Linked to Oral Health
There are also many conditions that could be linked to your oral health:
- Endocarditis – Endocarditis is an infection of the lining of your heart valves and heart chambers. It typically develops when bacteria or germs from other parts of the body get into the bloodstream and attach to your heart. High levels of oral bacteria is one way endocarditis can develop, but it isn’t the only way.
- Cardiovascular disease – While researchers do not yet know how it happens, there is evidence that inflammation and infections, such as those caused by high levels of oral bacteria, can encourage clogged arteries and heart disease as well as stroke.
- Pregnancy and birth complications – Periodontitis, a type of severe gum disease, can be a factor for premature birth. Babies born full term to mothers with periodontitis can have a low birth weight.
- Pneumonia – If oral bacteria travels down to the lungs, it can cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
- Alzheimer’s disease – While researchers do not know why it happens, there is a relationship between Alzheimer’s disease progressing and worsening oral health.
So your dentist can best protect your oral health and your whole body wellbeing, let your dentist know about any medications you are currently taking and any chronic health conditions you have. If you aren’t sure how to take care of your teeth in between appointments, your dentist would be happy to recommend produces, tools, or positive oral health habits.
Are you overdue for a cleaning? Reserve your appointment today.