How Oral Health Relates To Good Overall Health?
Contrary to many people’s belief that having tooth cavities and bleeding gums will have no connection with the rest of the body, your oral health status can directly affect your physical health and wellbeing. An unhealthy oral environment can not only lead to multiple problems regarding the teeth and gums, but also affect the normal functioning of the body, and can result in poor overall health as well.
The Mouth-Body Connection
Your mouth is a gateway to the whole body, and anything that you eat or drink first passes through the mouth and then goes into the digestive system and other parts of the body. Not caring for your oral health through regular brushing and flossing can create a favorable environment for the growth and replication of several diseases causing bacteria. Apart from causing tooth decay and sensitivity, these harmful bacteria can penetrate the gums and lead to inflammation of the gums, a condition known as gingivitis, which is characterized by inflamed, red and painful gums that bleed upon touching or probing. It is from these sore gums that the pathogenic bacteria get access to the blood stream, and then cause infections in other parts of the body.
Your Oral Health and Diabetes
As a direct consequence of inflammation of the gums and their surrounding structures within the oral cavity, the body’s ability to utilize insulin and metabolize sugars is decreased. This can further aggravate the pre-existing symptoms of the diabetic patients. To complicate things even more, the high blood sugar levels provide an ideal environment for the bacteria to multiply and worsen the pre-existing dental infections. The good news is that by keeping one condition in check, the other can easily be controlled.
Poor Oral Health Can Affect Your Heart Too!
Any inflammation within the mouth can easily travel to the heart and vascular structures through the bloodstream and cause heart problems. Patients who have undergone heart surgery to get their cardiac valves replaced with prosthetic ones are at a greater risk of having endocarditis if they do not maintain a good oral hygiene. The bacteria present in the dental plaque and calculus can gain entry into the heart during brushing or ultrasonic cleaning of the teeth, and result infection of the prosthetic heart valves, known as endocarditis.
Similarly, the bacteria can gain entry into the blood through the gums and initially cause an inflammation of the blood vessels. This can lead to a reduced blood flow to the heart, causing high blood pressure and direct ischemic damage to the heart. Furthermore, the bacteria-rich plaque deposited on the vessels can get dislodged, and cause infections in the heart tissues.
Oral Health and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive nervous condition characterized by generalized, gradual degeneration of the brain. Various studies have shown a direct relationship between poor oral health and incidence of Alzheimer’s. Harmful bacteria present in long-standing dental infections can enter the brain through the bloodstream, causing direct damage to the nervous structures, which is evident in the form of dementia.
Oral Health and Respiratory Diseases
The disease-causing bacteria that adhere to the dental plaque can enter the lungs, and cause various respiratory problems, including pneumonia. Again, through the lungs, the infection can gain access to the bloodstream and play havoc in other regions of the body!
Oral Health Can Cause Problems in Pregnancy
The oral bacteria generate toxins that can penetrate the placenta of expecting mothers through the bloodstream, and can not only lead to problems with fetal development but can also trigger labor movements too soon, resulting in a preterm birth. According to the National Institute of the Dental and Craniofacial Research, up to 18 percent cases of preterm birth have been attributed to poor oral hygiene and pre-existing gingival and periodontal infections in pregnant women.
What Should You Do?
Now we know what can happen apart from carious teeth and bad breath if we don’t look after our oral health, which is pretty scary. But the good news is that the solution to all these problems is very simple. If you can just take care of your oral hygiene, in addition to eating healthy, exercising regularly, and visiting your dentist frequently, you can kiss your oral health concerns goodbye.