What do your teeth have to do with your health? Glad you asked! It’s actually a pretty big deal. Having good oral hygiene isn’t just for looks and isn’t just about your teeth – it’s also about your heart. Yes, your heart. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis is also a preventative measure against cancer; your dentist will have an opportunity to see changes within your mouth that could be signs of oral cancer.
The state of your oral health offers clues about your overall health and problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your 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. Some medications, such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants, can reduce saliva flow which helps to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, plays a role in heart health. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.
What conditions may be linked to oral health?
- Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease.Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
How can I protect my oral health?
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day; at a minimum in the morning and before bed.
- Floss daily. This is important!
- Eat a nutritious diet and limit between-meal snacks
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Avoid tobacco use.
- Contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.
Some conditions that affect your oral health:
- Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection and puts the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
- Osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle, might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis. Tooth loss, a marker for gum disease, may predict rheumatoid arthritis and its severity.
Get yourself a Dentist!
Even if you take excellent care of your teeth and gums at home, you still need to see a dentist regularly. Your dentist can check for problems that you may not see or feel. Many dental problems don’t become visible or cause pain until they are in more advanced stages. Examples include cavities, gum disease and oral cancer. Regular visits allow your dentist to find early signs of disease and can be treated at a manageable stage.
On average, see your dentist twice a year. Individuals at high risk, may need more frequent visits, such as:
- People with current gum disease
- People with a weak immune system
- People who tend to get cavities or build up plaque