Oral health is more than just brushing your teeth twice a day. Your oral health can offer clues about your overall health and potential problems you are dealing with. When you think about your health, considering your oral health is non-negotiable.
In this article, you will learn what’s the connection between your oral health an overall health, how your oral health may be connected with other health conditions, what are some common oral health problems, and how to protect your oral health.
What’s the Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health?
Your body is a holistic inter-connected system. Your oral health is important.
Your mouth is full of bacteria, just like the rest of your body. Though most of them are harmless and are an important part of your body’s natural defense system, bad bacteria pops up as well. Daily brushing, flossing, and a generally good oral hygiene are important to keep bad bacteria in check and avoid tooth decay and other oral health issues.
Decongestant, painkillers, antidepressant, diuretics, antihistamines, and some other medication can reduce saliva flow putting you at higher risk of bacterial overgrowth. Oral bacteria can lead to inflammation in your body that can lead to various diseases. Furthermore, since digestion starts in your mouth, a compromised oral health can compromise your digestion as well.
Practicing good oral health strategies and visiting your dentist regularly is essential for your oral and overall health. (1)
What Conditions May Be Linked to Oral Health?
Oral health issues may lead to the following health issues (1):
- Cardiovascular disease: Heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke may be linked to inflammations and infections that may be caused by oral bacteria.
- Endocarditis: Endocarditis is a heart inner lining infection that is often the result of an infection spreading from another part of your body, such as your mouth.
- Pregnancy and birth: Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth rate.
Health issues that may affect your oral health (1):
- Diabetes: Diabetes lower your body’s ability to fight infections. Gum disease is also common among people with diabetes.
- HIV/AIDS: Oral problems are common among people with HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis causes your bones to become weak. Since your teeth are bones, this can lead to tooth loss as well.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Decreased oral health has been observed in Alzheimer’s patients as their disease progresses.
Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include (1):
- Eating disorders
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Head and neck cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Other autoimmune conditions
Oral Health Conditions
Cavities are a result of the breakdown of your tooth enamel by acids produced by unhealthy bacteria that collects on your teeth, especially around your gumline. Eating and drinking food and drinks high in processed sugar and carbohydrates can lead to the overproduction of acids by these bacteria that can lead to the demineralization of your teeth. Irregular or bad oral care leads to further bacteria growth and damage.
Tooth decay is preventable, yet it is a chronic problem among children, adolescents, and adults. 90% of people between 20 and 64 had at least one cavity. 27% of them had an untreated decay, which can lead to further infection, including gum infection. The spreading of an infection in the mouth, in some cases, can become serious, even fatal. (2)
Periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis, are the result of gum and bone infections and inflammation. Conditions that increase the risk of gum disease include diabetes, poor oral hygiene, and a weakened immune system. Hereditary factors can also increase risks. When periodontal diseases are not treated, it can lead to further gum infection and bone loss that may result in tooth extraction. (2)
In 2012 alone there were 40,000 new oral cancer cases and 9,000 deaths in the United States. Mortality is twice as high for some minorities as for whites. Black males are, particularly at risk. The 5-year survival rate of oral cancer is 59 percent.
To prevent oral cancer, it is important to prevent high-risk behaviors, such as cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking, using smokeless tobacco, and excessive alcohol use. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can also cause cancer in the back of one’s throat. It is unclear if HPV alone can lead to oral cancer or other factors, such as smoking interact with the virus increasing one’s risk. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment and increases the chance of survival. (2)
How to Protect Your Oral Health?
These simple tips can help you to protect your oral health (1):
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss daily.
- Eat a healthy diet high in greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
- Avoid refined sugar and processed foods.
- Limit snacking between meals.
- Replace your toothbrush at least every 3 – 4 months or sooner if it is frayed.
- Get regular dental check-ups and cleaning.
- Avoid tobacco.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any questions about oral health, ask me in the comments. To find out more about oral health, check out my articles related to oral health above.