The connection between dental health and general health is not obvious to most people. However, research shows that Oral health has a bigger impact on your overall health than you might think. Taking care of your teeth not only gives you a beautiful smile but also improves the health of your entire body. If you are neglecting your teeth, you could have serious health problems in the future.
The connection between oral health and general health
Our mouths are full of bacteria. This is normal and most are harmless. Daily brushing and flossing keep bacteria levels in check. However, when oral care is lacking, problems can arise. Bacteria in the mouth multiply and combine with sugar in food to make acids. These acids attack the tooth causing tooth decay, gum disease, abscesses, and periodontitis, which can cause infections that spread to other parts of the body. Here are some of the health problems associated with poor oral health.
Heart disease: heart attacks and strokes
When you don't brush or floss your teeth every day, plaque builds up on your teeth. This can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol isn't the only thing blocking your arteries. A study of the American Heart Foundation discovered that bacteria in oral plaque can contribute to blocked arteries. Plaque enters the bloodstream and can lodge in an artery in the heart. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Heart disease: endocarditis
When bacteria colonies build up in the mouth, they attack the teeth and gums and can cause gingivitis (gum disease). Gingivitis causes the gums to bleed. Once that happens, the bacteria pass into the bloodstream and can travel to other areas of the body. When a colony reaches the heart, it can lead to a heart condition called endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart's chambers or valves.
Gum disease can also complicate diabetes. The periodontitis (inflammation of the gums and chronic infection of the supporting bone) it is a serious dental problem in which the gums become so inflamed that they begin to separate from the teeth and form spaces. These lagoons can quickly become infected. For a person with diabetes, periodontitis makes it difficult for the body to properly absorb insulin that lowers blood sugar levels. In turn, persistent high blood sugar exacerbates infections in the mouth, leading to more inflammation. It is a vicious circle. For this reason, it is vital that diabetics maintain good dental health.
Air flows through your mouth into your lungs. If there is an unhealthy amount of bad bacteria in the mouth, these bacteria can easily get into the lungs and cause pneumonia or other respiratory problems. The elderly, in particular, should ensure that they continue to care for their teeth, including dentures, as a disease such as pneumonia can be life-threatening when it affects an older person.
Dental problems can affect pregnancy
Pregnant women know to take prenatal vitamins, avoid certain foods, and get regular checkups. One thing you may not know is that dental health can also affect your pregnancy and fetus. In addition to visits to the gynecologist, pregnant women should also schedule a check-up with their dentist.
Increased pregnancy hormones can make existing dental problems worse. What is more alarming is that the evidence shows that periodontitis puts babies at risk of being born prematurely or with low birth weight. Maintaining good dental health during pregnancy is an important step in protecting yourself and your baby.
Poor oral health puts HIV patients at risk of infection
People living with HIV are vulnerable to infections, and complications from those infections can be fatal. Minor infections can escalate quickly due to a weakened immune system. Therefore, people living with HIV need to be more vigilant when it comes to safeguarding all aspects of their health, including dental health.
Poor oral health puts a person with HIV at higher risk for infections that can cause your general health to deteriorate. In fact, more than 30 oral conditions have been linked to HIV disease. Oral conditions such as mucosal lesions (painful mouth ulcers) are common in people with HIV and AIDS. Also, several antiviral medications used to treat HIV cause dry mouth. With reduced saliva in the mouth, the teeth have less protection against cavities.
Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body. Food, liquids, air, and germs enter the body through the mouth. Don't underestimate the impact your oral health has on your overall health. Scientists continue to learn more about the link between oral health and conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Maintaining good dental health is an important step you should take to reduce your risk of developing other health problems.