ORAL HEALTH AND OVERALL HEALTH
You may have heard that healthy teeth are a sign of good overall health. Is that true? And if so – why? It turns out that heathy teeth and gums can be compared to the chicken and the egg. Sometimes it’s hard to know which one came first. If someone does know the answer – it’s probably your dentist. They know things about your overall health based on the state of your mouth. Learn more about how a healthy mouth helps create a healthy you.
HEALTHY TEETH FOR A HEALTHY YOU
According to the Mayo Clinic, 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.” There are several ways in which health concerns and dental issues are interconnected.
RISK TO THE BODY FROM POOR HYGIENE
AND MOUTH PROBLEMS:
- Endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body (your mouth for example) spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease. Research shows that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections from oral bacteria.
- Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, often causing shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth) has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight babies.
RISK TO THE TEETH AND GUMS FROM HEALTH ISSUES:
- Alzheimer’s disease. Tooth loss before age 35 might be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection which puts the gums at risk.
- HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions (mouth ulcers), are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis. Common among older women, osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle. It is thought to be linked to tooth loss.
WHAT YOUR DENTIST SEES
Your dentist has looked inside thousands of mouths. And your dentist went through a lot of schooling. Here’s what they see when they look in your mouth (and what they may not tell you)…
- You bite your nails. Nail biting is not only bad for your nails, it is bad for your teeth. It causes chips and cracking of the teeth.
- You flossed right before your appointment. And that’s the only time you flossed since your last appointment. A dentist can tell you’re not taking care of your gums.
- You have a drinking problem. Alcoholic patients are cavity prone due to a dry mouth.
- You have a sinus infection. People call to the dentist thinking they need a root canal, but it is actually a sinus infection.
- You have a vitamin deficiency. Many oral problems are linked to a lack of specific vitamins.
- You may have an eating disorder. Bulimia shows a pattern of tooth wear that your dentist can spot easily.
- You were a thumb-sucker. If you sucked your thumb past the age of seven or eight, your bite and position of your teeth will show it. This is often corrected, with other alignment problems, with braces.
- You’re pregnant. Women often develop gingivitis during pregnancy. Signs of gingivitis are swollen gums, bright red or purple gums, gums that are tender or painful to the touch, gums that bleed after brushing or flossing and bad breath.
- Your bad breath is a signal. ‘Fruity’ breath could indicate uncontrolled diabetes. ‘Fishy’ breath could be a sign of kidney or liver failure.
FIVE WAYS TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH
Between 5% and 8% of adults in the U.S. avoid dentists out of fear.However, if you take care of your teeth, they’re more likely to take care of you! The Mayo Clinic recommends these five ways to take care of your teeth.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
- Floss daily.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
- Schedule regular dental checkups.