A Healthy Mouth Helps Maintain a Healthy Body: Here’s How…
We all know how important brushing, flossing, and rinsing regularly is for our teeth. But it might surprise you to discover how closely it is linked to overall body health. Not only can your oral health be a keen indicator of certain health conditions, issues with your teeth and gums can actually affect the rest of your body. So, courtesy of The Bondi Dentists, here’s a brief peek into the link between your oral health and the health of your whole body.
So what is the connection?
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the mouth, like many other areas of the body, it a hotspot for bacteria. However, when your health is balanced, most of these bacteria are relatively harmless. The problem comes when you get out of balance and these bacteria become too numerous or travel to other areas of the body where we lack natural defences.
Here’s where the mouth is especially important. The mouth is a major entry point for the body, the point where the digestive and respiratory tracts meet the outside world. The bacteria in our mouth are usually kept under control by good oral care and the body’s natural defences. But without good oral hygiene, these bacteria can thrive and reach levels that lead to infection, like gum disease and tooth decay.
Your daily brushing and flossing aren’t the only things that have an impact on a healthy mouth. One of the main players of our natural defences is our saliva. Saliva washes away food residue and helps to neutralise the acids in our food and those created by bacteria. It keeps the numbers of bacteria down and helps to prevent damage from the bacteria that grow between our daily care sessions.
One problem is that certain medications, such as antidepressants, diuretics, painkillers, antihistamines, and decongestants, can reduce saliva flow and make the mouth more vulnerable. If you find that you often have dry mouth, one way to combat this and encourage saliva flow is with sugarless gum. This will get the salivary glands working and help to restore the natural balance of the mouth.
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However, even with the best of care, we sometimes encounter problems. When the gums become severely infected, a condition known as periodontitis, the inflammation and oral bacteria that result can actually lead to other problems. Studies have suggested that periodontitis might be linked to a number of other diseases. And it goes both ways, as well. Certain diseases can reduce our resistance to infection and make oral health issues more severe.
Here are a few of the conditions that oral health may contribute to:
Pneumonia – Pneumonia is an infection of the respiratory tract. Bacteria in the mouth can be pulled into the lungs, where they begin to spread and create infection, either in the form of pneumonia or other, similar respiratory diseases.
Cardiovascular Disease – Although the connection isn’t fully understood as of yet, studies suggest a strong link between oral health and cardiovascular issues. People with gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event.
Endocarditis – When bacteria from the mouth or other parts of the body spread through the bloodstream, they can attach to the endocardium, the valves or inner lining of the heart. An infection in these areas can seriously compromise the function of the heart and become life threatening.
Complications in Pregnancy and Birth – Periodontitis in particular has been linked to low birth weight, premature birth, and other pregnancy complications.
Before you start to get worried, remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The most important thing that you can do is take care of your mouth and teeth and make sure any issues are addressed by a dentist promptly. All the diseases above are influenced most heavily by periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease which can be helped by your dentist.
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So what can I do to protect my teeth and my health?
The best methods to protect your oral health – and your overall health – are the same ones you’ve been taught ever since you were a kid. So, it should be no surprise, but it’s always worth offering a gentle reminder:
- Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss every day.
- Make sure to use a mouthwash to get rid of stubborn food particles after flossing and brushing.
- Maintain a healthy diet with a low sugar content.
- Limit snacking times, rinse with water after snacks, and give your saliva a chance to build up.
- Try to replace your toothbrush every three months, or sooner if the bristles are worn or splayed.
- Avoid tobacco use.
- Schedule dental checkups and cleanings regularly.
Probably the most important thing is to check with your dentist as soon as a problem arises. If you have regular checkups, this isn’t likely to be an issue, but it may be important if you take certain medications, if you have a chronic condition like diabetes, or if you’ve been recently ill.
If you’d like to know more about oral health or you’d like to look at times for your next checkup, feel free to contact us. The Bondi Dentists care about your dental health, and we’re here for you.