How Dental Health Impacts the Rest of Your Body
Over 3.5 billion people, or half of the world's population, are affected by oral diseases!
It’s important to understand that oral health doesn't only affect a person's mouth. Poor dental health can lead to issues throughout the body. Oral symptoms are often an indication of a larger health problem.
But what constitutes a healthy mouth? And how do you know when a dental health problem is signaling something more significant? Learn more in this guide to healthy teeth and gums.
What is a Healthy Mouth?
Our mouths contain over 700 different strains of bacteria. Most of these bacteria aren't harmful, but others can negatively affect your health if not controlled properly.
Your body has natural defenses to fight off bad strains of bacteria. Combining those natural processes with a good oral health care routine is the best way to maintain a healthy mouth. Taking care of your dental health involves:
- Brushing 2-3 times per day
- Flossing once per day
- Eating healthy, nutritious, wholesome foods
- Limiting snacks and sugar
- Replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months
- Visiting your dentist on a regular basis and performing routine cleanings and check-ups
An important component of dental health is regularly seeing your dentist. When you notice changes or problems with your oral health, it is especially important to visit your dentist immediately.
Conditions Affecting Oral Health
Some health conditions will initially show warning signs and symptoms through your oral health. Systemic diseases, on the other hand, affect your entire body. Many systemic diseases produce oral symptoms that are easily detected with a dental evaluation.
Systemic diseases with oral signs and symptoms include:
- Diabetes - Causes more frequent and severe gum disease because the body isn't able to resist infection.
- Alzheimer's Disease - As Alzheimer's disease worsens, oral health deteriorates.
- Osteoporosis - Causes bone and tooth loss as a result of weakening and brittle bones, as well as treatment side effects.
- Coeliac or Crohn's Disease - May cause aphthous ulcers.
- Blood disorders - These can lead to pale and/or gums susceptible to bleeding.
- HIV/AIDS - These diseases cause mucosal lesions in the mouth.
- Bulimia/Anorexia - Eating disorders can cause tooth discoloration.
Oral health has been connected to a number of other health conditions. These include head and neck cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and an immune system disorder known as Sjogren's syndrome.
Conditions Caused By Poor Oral Health
Oral health involves more than just preventing bad breath. Maintaining a healthy mouth also prevents tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss associated with aging.
The important balancing of bacteria in your mouth requires practicing good dental health. If you don't practice proper oral care, your body is susceptible to a number of complications. We've listed some of the more common and serious health conditions below:
Saliva is one of the natural defenses against bacteria. Its job is to fight off disease-causing bacteria and viruses that grow inside your, otherwise, healthy mouth. Your saliva fights off pathogens that cause all types of dangerous health conditions. It also stops the growth of Candida albicans. When Candida albicans isn't controlled by saliva, it flourishes in your mouth. This can cause a fungal infection, known as oral thrush.
While it's combatting Candida albicans, your saliva is also destroying other bacteria that cause health issues. In fact, it helps maintain a perfect balance of good and bad bacteria that are present in a healthy mouth.
However, your saliva can't do this job on its own. Without a consistent oral care routine, bacteria builds up and forms plaque. This colorless film that forms on the surface of your teeth can lead to severe gum disease.
Brushing and flossing helps remove plaque from along the gumline. When plaque accumulates between your teeth and gums, the environment becomes ideal for the growth of bacteria. This eventually leads to an infection of the gums called gingivitis. Gingivitis can become progressively worse and lead to more serious periodontitis. If periodontitis is not treated properly, the infection can lead to trench mouth. Any of these gum infections can result in the loss of your teeth.
Oral bacteria causes both inflammation and infections. There appears to be a strong correlation between these symptoms and heart disease, stroke, or clogged arteries.
When the inner lining of your heart is inflamed, it's known as endocarditis. Most often caused by bacteria, endocarditis can lead to problems in other bodily organs, blood clots, abnormal heart rhythm, and other potentially dangerous conditions. Endocarditis occurs when bacteria travel from one part of the body to another through your bloodstream. Poor dental health increases your risk of developing this condition.
Your oral health can also have an effect on your pregnancy. Specifically, the second stage of gingivitis (periodontitis) is linked to complications at birth. This is why it's especially important to maintain proper dental health while pregnant. Otherwise, your risk of premature birth and low birth weight are significantly increased.
When it comes to oral infection and disease, some individuals are at higher risk than others. The following factors put you at greater risk for complications from poor dental health:
Poor hygiene puts you at risk for periodontal disease, bacterial conditions, and inflammatory conditions
People in lower socioeconomic statuses are at a higher risk for oral infection and disease
If you consume alcohol in excess, you're at a higher risk for oral cancer
If you smoke or chew tobacco there's a greater chance of developing oral cancer and periodontal disease
Stress also has an impact on your oral health. People with high stress are more susceptible to periodontal disease.
Do You Have A Healthy Mouth?
A dentist only needs a quick look or swab to determine whether you have a healthy mouth. With a quick noninvasive examination, a dental provider can evaluate your dental health. They may also be able to detect any underlying conditions that are causing oral health problems.
Your oral health not only affects your breath and the health of your gums, but it also affects the rest of your body. To learn more about your dental health, contact our Philadelphia practice for information.