You may have heard this by now, but oral health is often described as the window to the rest of your body. Your oral health offers clues to the condition of the rest of your body, and issues in your mouth can affect the rest of your body as well–just in case you needed another great reason to see your dentist in Asheville.
A person’s mouth is teeming with bacteria, most of which are harmless and kept under control with daily brushing and flossing. If proper hygiene is not maintained, the level of bacteria in a person’s mouth can reach dangerous highs, leading to possible infection, tooth decay or gum disease.
Certain diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes, can lower the body’s ability to fight infection, exacerbating oral health problems. Osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle, may also be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
Is Your Saliva Healthy?
Saliva is a great indicator of the health of a person’s mouth. A doctor can test saliva for various substances, including environmental toxins, illegal drugs, hormones, or antibodies that indicate HIV infection or hepatitis. Saliva also acts as a disabler to harmful bacteria and viruses.
Certain medications can reduce saliva flow, including antihistamines, painkillers, decongestants, antidepressants, and diuretics. Saliva is key in washing away food and neutralizing the acid produced by bacteria in a person’s mouth, which helps to protect it from a microbial overgrowth, which may lead to disease. You should talk with your dentist and inform them of any medications that you are on before or during a checkup.
Conditions Linked to Oral Health
Some common conditions are linked to oral health. A person’s oral health may contribute to these different conditions and diseases, including:
- Endocarditis – an infection of the inner lining of your heart, endocarditis usually occurs when bacteria spread through the bloodstream from another area in the body, such as the mouth, and to the damaged areas in the heart
- Cardiovascular Disease – scientists suggest that clogged arteries, heart disease, and stroke may be linked to oral bacteria and the inflammation or infections that it causes
- Pregnancy/birth – research links periodontitis to premature birth and low birth weight
Eating disorders, head and neck cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome are just a couple of other conditions that may have a link to oral health. It’s important to tell your dentist if you are taking any medications or have experienced any changes in your health一especially a recent diagnosis一so that they can adjust treatment for these factors.
Protecting your oral health
There are easy steps that can be made to protect and preserve the health of your mouth and the rest of your body. Good oral hygiene is key, including:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice daily
- Daily floss
- A healthy diet and limited snacking
- Replacing a toothbrush every three to four months, sooner if the bristles are coming apart
- No tobacco use
- Regular dental checkups
Your Mouth Is a Source of Infection
Without regular brushing and flossing to keep teeth clean, plaque will begin to build up along the gumline, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria. An infection in the gums is known as gingivitis, which can lead to periodontitis一a more serious gum infection一if a person isn’t careful. The most severe form of gum infection is acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also called trench mouth.
While bacteria from your mouth won’t normally enter the bloodstream, invasive dental treatments or even routine brushing or flossing with a gum disease can open an entryway for the microbes. Certain medications or treatments that affect saliva can disrupt the normal bacterial balance in a person’s mouth.
After the immune system is compromised, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and may cause infection elsewhere in the body. This is especially true in cases of long-term gum infection.
It’s pretty common knowledge that good oral hygiene is good for you, but you might not be aware of just how much of an effect it can have on a person’s body. The state of your oral health can be very indicative of the health of the rest of the body. Do your body a favor by staying on top of your oral hygiene and making regular visits with your dentist.
Rebol Family Dentistry is happily accepting new patients right now, contact us to request an appointment or give us a call for more information. We look forward to being the dental practice that you can trust.