Your mouth is literally the gateway to the rest of your body. It is the fueling port where we consume our food, beverages, and most medications. The digestive and respiratory tracts are accessed through the mouth.
Too often, our thoughts about the role our mouth plays in our overall health end with what we eat and drink. But practicing proper dental hygiene — brushing, flossing, and getting regular dental checkups — helps us maintain our overall health. Diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and birth complications are some of the conditions associated with poor dental health.
It Starts with Bacteria
We introduce foreign objects into our bodies whenever we eat or drink. We chew, swallow, and move things along into our digestive system where bacteria in our gut break down the food to get the nutrients our bodies need.
Bacteria lives and thrives in dark, warm, moist places – like our mouths. If we don’t brush or floss regularly, that bacteria will grow unchecked fueled by the remnants of what we eat and drink.
When bacteria build up on our teeth, our gums become prone to infection, and they swell because our immune system is fighting that infection. Left uncontrolled, the chemicals that result from the infection slowly dissolve the gums and bones holding our teeth into place. That is gum disease, also known as periodontitis.
Poor Oral Health Leads to Health Problems
Gum disease and tooth decay can be the source of intense pain and require expensive dental procedures. But sometimes that’s just the beginning. Over the last decade, research has found connections between oral health and a variety of serious diseases and conditions.
- Heart disease — Oral bacteria, left to grow, can move their way into your bloodstream and infect the inner lining of your heart valves. These bacteria can also infect arteries, causing them to swell and clog, potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes.
- Pneumonia — This is just one of the respiratory diseases that can be caused by bacteria from your mouth getting pulled into your lungs.
- Birth complications — Low birth weight and premature birth have been linked to periodontitis. An infection in the mouth has been shown to hinder development of the fetus.
Health Conditions Contributing to Oral Problems
Just as poor dental hygiene can lead to health problems, certain diseases and conditions can contribute to oral problems.
- Diabetes — People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, while people with gum disease can develop diabetes. Inflammation in the mouth seems to lower the body’s ability to control blood sugar, which is a problem for people with diabetes. The high blood sugar that can come with diabetes makes it harder for the body to fight infections — including gum infections. Studies have also shown good oral health can improve diabetes control.
- Osteoporosis — The disease weakens the bones making periodontal bone and tooth loss more likely.
- Obesity — Studies have shown periodontitis can progress more quickly in people with higher body fat.
Brush Up on Your Dental Routine Basics
Taking just a few minutes each day to properly care for your teeth can pay big rewards by improving your overall health. Good dental hygiene includes:
- Brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste
- Flossing daily
- Using mouthwash to remove bits brushing and flossing may miss
- Eating a healthful diet and limiting foods with added sugar
- Replacing your toothbrush at least every three months
- Avoiding tobacco use – that includes vaping, which may be just as bad for your teeth as eating a candy bar, drinking a soda, and not brushing.
- Scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings
Regular cleanings and checkups help you stay on top of any developing situations. Also, few things make you feel as put together as bright, shining, professionally cleaned teeth.
We Can Help
AltaMed Dental Services has highly skilled dentists and hygienists to help you maintain your healthy smile or get you back on the path to dental health. Call (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment or get more information online.