The Importance of Maintaining Your Oral Health

Do you know just how important your oral health is? From an early age, we are taught to take care of our teeth and follow a strict oral hygiene routine1. But there’s a good reason for this. Your oral health can impact your overall, general health more than you may realize. Problems that are happening inside your mouth can result in problems with your general health.

What’s The Connection?

Your mouth already contains plenty of harmless bacteria, but some bacteria can easily cause disease. Considering the fact that your mouth is the entry point when it comes to your respiratory and digestive tracts, there is a reason we should think about what we put into our mouths. 

Sure, you can keep the bacteria under control with regular (and daily) brushing and flossing2, but sometimes we can still end up with harmful bacteria causing oral infections. You are less likely to endure such a situation if you take proper care of your oral health. Dealing with tooth decay and/or gum disease is not a fun situation to be in. So, it makes sense that one would prefer to follow a simple but effective oral hygiene routine to avoid these potential diseases.

Unfortunately, it’s not just what you eat and drink that you must be aware of in terms of impacting your oral health. Certain medications can cause issues as well, such as antihistamines3 and painkillers, among others. These can lessen saliva flow. You need good saliva flow to eliminate food particles and neutralize the acids that bacteria can produce. Your oral health can also be at risk when you have certain diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes. These diseases can lessen your immune system and negatively affect your oral health.  For more information about the mouth-to-body connection, visit here.

What Diseases Could Be Linked to Oral Health?

Not having the best oral health could put you at risk for various health conditions and diseases, including but not limited to:

Pneumonia – Pneumonia can occur if certain bacteria in your mouth are pulled into your lungs, as well as other respiratory problems/diseases.

Cardiovascular Disease – There is some research that suggests stroke, clogged arteries, and heart disease may be linked to infections and inflammations in our mouths caused by bacteria. 

Pregnancy and/or Birth Complications – There has been an established link between low birth weight and premature birth with periodontitis.4

Endocarditis – Bacteria or other germs either from your mouth or elsewhere can spread through your bloodstream, attaching to certain areas in the heart, causing endocarditis5, an infection of the inner lining of the heart valves or chambers.

Certain Health Conditions That May Affect Oral Health

There are also some conditions that could affect your oral health, including:

Osteoporosis – Periodontal bone loss and tooth loss are linked to this bone-weakening disease. There are actually some Osteoporosis treatment drugs 6that come with a small risk of jawbone damage.

Diabetes – Diabetes lowers the body’s resistance to infection with can also put your oral health, specifically your gums, at risk. Many people that have diabetes also have gum disease. Research has shown that those with gum disease have a harder time when it comes to blood sugar level control. You can still improve the control of diabetes with regular oral care.

Alzheimer’s Disease – Those with Alzheimer’s disease seem to experience worse oral health as the disease progresses.

HIV/AIDS – Those who have HIV/AIDS seem to also have oral problems, like mucosal lesions that are painful.

These are only a handful of the potential disease and conditions that may be linked to oral health. Others include certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis,7 Sjogren’s syndrome8 (which causes dry mouth), and eating disorders. If you currently take medications, be sure to tell your dentist, along with any changes you’ve experienced in your overall health, especially if you have diabetes or another chronic health condition.

Protecting Your Oral Health

You can continue to protect your oral health, even if you have experienced issues in the past or present. Practice good oral hygiene that includes:

  • Always brush a minimum of twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste containing fluoride. 
  • Floss every day.
  • After you brush and floss, use mouthwash.
  • Avoid high-sugar foods and drinks and opt for healthy options.
  • Every 3-4 months, you should replace your toothbrush, or sooner if the bristles become worn.
  • Have regular dental cleanings and checkups to get ahead of any potential problems.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco products.

Should you experience an issue, suspect one, or have a dental emergency, contact your dentist right away. Taking action right away can help you avoid more serious problems.

Proofread by:

Dr. Foram Bhuta

Dentist (B.D.S)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-foram-bhuta-543b0a215
https://www.facebook.com/foram.p.bhuta/
  1. Löe, Harald. “Oral hygiene in the prevention of caries and periodontal disease.” International dental journal 50.3 (2000): 129-139. ↩︎
  2. Winterfeld, Tobias, et al. “Toothbrushing and flossing behaviour in young adults—a video observation.” Clinical oral investigations 19 (2015): 851-858. ↩︎
  3. Kay, Gary G. “The effects of antihistamines on cognition and performance.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 105.6 (2000): S622-S627. ↩︎
  4. Flemmig, Thomas F. “Periodontitis.” Annals of periodontology 4.1 (1999): 32-37. ↩︎
  5. Vogkou, Christiana T., et al. “The causative agents in infective endocarditis: a systematic review comprising 33,214 cases.” European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases 35.8 (2016): 1227-1245. ↩︎
  6. Khosla, Sundeep, and Lorenz C. Hofbauer. “Osteoporosis treatment: recent developments and ongoing challenges.” The lancet Diabetes & endocrinology 5.11 (2017): 898-907. ↩︎
  7. Firestein, Gary S. “Evolving concepts of rheumatoid arthritis.” Nature 423.6937 (2003): 356-361. ↩︎
  8. Mavragani, Clio P., and Haralampos M. Moutsopoulos. “Sjögren syndrome.” Cmaj 186.15 (2014): E579-E586. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf

Authors

Icy Health Editorial Team
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