Oral Health Problems: An indicator of overall health problems?

You might be surprised to learn that your oral health goes far beyond your appearance and ability to chew food. Evidence is surfacing that shows oral health issues may be an indicator of other health issues. Research shows that problems in your mouth can have effects on the rest of your body and lead to other health complications.

Your mouth is filled with bacteria, most of which is harmless. Normally good oral health care and the body’s natural defense system can keep these bacteria under control. However, with poor oral hygiene, these bacteria can reach levels that lead to infection, tooth decay, and gum disease. Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with severe gum disease, or periodontitis, might play a role in some diseases.

Certain diseases such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe. In the late 1980s, researchers noticed a trend in patients who suffered from heart attacks. They noticed that these patients were more likely to have dental cavities, gum disease, or inflammation around the teeth. Studies have since continued to support these results. Both dentists and doctors now recognize poor oral health as a risk factor for a variety of heart conditions such as heart attacks and coronary heart disease.

Poor oral health conditions have also been linked to type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. We now know that poor oral health puts people at higher risk for infections, including pneumonia. Harmful pathogens can and do enter the body through the mouth.

Additionally, certain medications such as decongestants, painkillers, or antidepressants can reduce the saliva flow that protects you from microbial invasion by washing away food and the acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth. This loss in saliva leaves you susceptible to inflammation and disease.

Since a healthy mouth is a significant factor in your overall health, it’s important to maintain good oral health. You can take care of your teeth and reduce bacteria and inflammation by brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily. Make sure you aren’t consuming too many sugary and starchy foods or sodas, and after each meal brush your teeth or rinse your mouth.

We recommend you visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and keep them informed of any changes in your overall health. If you have any concerns about your teeth or gums we ask that you contact us right away.

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