No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic has affirmed that there is a relationship between oral health and overall health. Problems with your mouth, teeth and gums offer more than casual clues about other chronic conditions and certain serious diseases. That’s one of the reasons your primary care physician will ask you about your brushing and flossing habits, and your dentist wants to know about your general health, the medicines you take and any chronic conditions or serious diseases.
But can daily brushing and flossing really extend your life expectancy?
The Role of Bacteria
Your mouth, as you probably already know, is a breeding ground for all types of bacteria, most of them harmless and some even beneficial. But without consistently good oral hygiene — the brushing and flossing that has been recommended since childhood — the bacterial population in your mouth can swell to levels that lead to gum infections, decay, disease, pain and tooth loss.
It is estimated that at least half of all adults will face some form of gum disease during a lifetime. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and proper care, it does not inevitably lead to serious problems or to tooth loss. Left unchecked, however, the prospects can be grim, not only in the mouth but throughout the body.
Harmful bacteria can “escape” their home in your mouth and invade the bloodstream to wreak havoc with other organs, lead to inflammation in joints or infection of the heart’s lining, and may play a role in cardiovascular disease, immune system disorders, clogged arteries and stroke.
The severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis is linked to Rheumatoid arthritis, and research shows that it may also have ties to other conditions. Although the causal relationship is less than completely clear, it is undeniable that people with perio disease are at greater risk for developing RA, and if you have been diagnosed with RA, you may also be at greater risk for periodontal problems. Routine examinations are the antidote.
The laboratory markers are clear that inflammation of the gums and inflammation elsewhere in the body are related.
The Common Links
An immune system disorder that causes dry mouth, is also worsened by poor oral hygiene. Decreased saliva flow means that acids in the mouth are no longer effectively neutralized, and food particles and bacteria are not flushed away as they should be.
An infection of the heart’s inner lining, typically occurs when bacteria and microbes transmitted through the bloodstream lodge in damaged areas of the heart’s lining. An oversupply of those bacteria in the mouth can be risky.
Cardiovascular disease, stroke, clogged arteries, HIV/Aids and diabetes
All have links in common with diseases of the mouth and gums. Some head and neck cancers are thought to be affected by improper care of the mouth, teeth and gums.
In addition, periodontitis is linked to low birth weight babies and premature birth.
What About Medication
Individuals with diabetes seem to be more prone than the general population to gum disease. Regular periodontal care has been shown to improve blood sugar control, and should be an important adjunct to continuing diabetes care.
Worsening oral health is also a side effect of Alzheimer’s Disease, though that may be more a behavioral effect than a physical symptom, according to many researchers.
Antibiotics and common prescription drugs also have an effect on oral health. Always tell your dentist if you are taking prescribed medication for a chronic condition, or if you have recently received prescription drug treatment for any infection or illness. By informing both your dentist and your physician of any changes in medication and physical condition, you can play a proactive role in your ongoing wellness in addition to addressing the specific health of your mouth, teeth and gums.
Ensuring Healthy Teeth and Gums
By taking steps to improve and maintain your oral health, it is possible to better your chances for leading a long and healthy life. Overall wellness and good oral hygiene habits go hand in hand.
The basics are simple:
- Brush and floss daily as your dental professional directs.
- Schedule and keep regular appointment with your dentist.
- Call for an appointment if you suspect a problem of any kind.
- Avoid tobacco.
- Eat a healthy diet and get the proper amount of exercise and sleep.
- Be aware of the need for periodontal care if your gums are inflamed or irritated, or if you have pain.
Briglia Dental Group in West Chester is a family practice dedicated to helping patients keep strong teeth and great smiles for an entire lifetime. If you have concerns about your oral hygiene or specific tooth and gum problems, why not call 610-692-4440 to schedule an appointment today?
We want you to live a long and healthy life.