Your oral health is often a starting point for doctors to detect early signs and symptoms of other health conditions and systemic disease (disease that affects multiple systems in the body). According to the Academy of General Dentistry, over 90% of all systemic disease produces oral symptoms. For examples, diabetes and HIV/AIDS may produce mouth lesions as an early warning sign.
The health of your mouth, teeth, and gums can offer clues about the health of the rest of your body. Today, Boyett Family Dentistry is here to explain how your oral health can affect your overall health.
The Oral Microbiome
After your gut, the oral cavity contains the largest microbial community in your body. Your mouth contains thousands of bacteria, many of them healthy. But if you are not practicing proper oral hygiene, some bacteria in your mouth can contribute to gum disease, tooth decay, and infections.
Your mouth is the gateway to other systems in your body, including your digestive and respiratory systems. Inflammation and bacteria from oral infections can travel to other parts of your body and cause health issues. Gum disease is one of the most common inflammatory infections in the world; oral inflammation may cause bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream and cause inflammation in other parts of your body. Ongoing inflammation contributes to the development of chronic systemic disease.
How Oral Health Affects Overall Health
Scientists are still conducting research into how your oral health is linked to other health conditions and systemic disease. Researchers have concluded that an unhealthy mouth – and particularly the development of gum disease – may increase your risk of heart disease, poorly controlled diabetes, and preterm labor. Scientists believe that the spread of oral inflammation and oral bacteria to other parts of the body is a contributing factor to disease.
To date, scientists have stated that an unhealthy mouth may increase your risk of the following:
- Cardiovascular disease: heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke
- Pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses
- Premature birth and low birth weight
- Poorly controlled blood sugar levels with diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
How Medical Conditions Affect Oral Health
On the flip side, having an existing medical condition may affect the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums.
- Diabetes: Diabetes causes reduced resistance to infection, which places your gums at higher risk for gum disease. People with diabetes are more likely to develop frequent and severe cases of periodontitis.
- HIV/AIDS: HIV medications may cause dry mouth and reduced saliva flow. Saliva is crucial for cleaning the mouth, preventing bad breath, and neutralizing corrosive mouth acids that lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis may contribute to tooth loss and bone loss in the jaw.
- Eating disorders: Eating disorders may cause bad breath, discoloration, and tooth enamel loss that will leave your teeth vulnerable to decay.
How to Protect Your Oral Health
Practicing daily, at-home oral hygiene care will help prevent oral infections and protect your overall health. Brush your teeth twice a day (for 2 minutes each time) with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Floss and rinse with a fluoridated mouthwash once a day. Make sure to replace your toothbrush regularly.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet filled with whole foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Try to limit your intake of processed and sugary foods. If you smoke, we encourage you to quit – smoking can cause several unpleasant oral conditions.
Visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and exams. Dr. Boyett and her team of wonderful dental hygienists are here to make sure your mouth remains in optimal health. Call Boyett Family Dentistry today to schedule your next appointment.