Why Dental Care is Important For Your Overall Health
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
The health of your mouth, teeth, and gums may not seem like an important factor in your overall wellness. However, not only is your oral health connected to your overall health, but it can also play a role in your likelihood of developing certain health conditions.
This is because the mouth has direct access to your digestive and respiratory tracts. If bacteria — which live all over you, including in your mouth — make it into your body, it can cause problems.
While most bacteria are harmless, some of them can cause disease.
By understanding the relationship between your oral health and your overall health, you can take steps toward a healthier you.
What Health Conditions Are Related to Poor Oral Health?
Your oral health is interconnected with your overall health. Unmanaged oral health — which can take the form of gum disease, gum infections, and tooth decay — can put other parts of your body at risk.
Poor oral health can play a role in:
- Endocarditis, which is an infection of the endocardium (the inner lining of your heart valves and chambers). This can develop when bacteria travel from other parts of your body (such as your mouth), enter your bloodstream, and spread to certain areas of your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease, which is a term for a group of disorders connected to your heart and blood vessels. Likely due to inflammation and infections from bacteria, poor oral health is connected with clogged arteries, heart disease, and stroke.
- Pneumonia, which can occur when bacteria spread from your mouth into your lungs
- Pregnancy problems, such as low birth weight, premature birth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia
- Poor nutrition, as untreated cavities can impact your ability to eat
Oral health problems, especially ones that are noticeable, can also impact your self-confidence and desire to socialize with others. If you develop painful oral conditions, that can make it more difficult to go about your daily life, including working.
On the other hand, there are also certain health conditions that can impact your oral health. These include:
- Diabetes, which can lead to a lowered resistance to infection and put your gums at risk of developing gum disease
- Osteoporosis, which is a bone-weakening condition and can increase your chances of periodontal bone loss and tooth loss
- HIV/AIDS, which is connected with a higher rate of oral issues, such as mucosal lesions
- Other conditions, including eating disorders, certain cancers, and rheumatoid arthritis
Some medications, including painkillers, decongestants, antihistamines, antidepressants, and diuretics, can reduce the amount of saliva you produce. Because saliva cleans your mouth of food and neutralizes acids from bacteria, these medications can contribute to poor oral health.
Keeping Your Mouth and Body Healthy
Oral health is a key part of your overall health. Whether you’ve always been on top of your oral health or not, it’s not too late to protect your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Prioritize your oral health by:
- Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time
- Flossing every day
- Using mouthwash to rinse away food particles that remain after brushing and flossing
- Limiting the amount of sugar you eat and drink
- Not using tobacco
- Avoiding excessive alcohol use
- Managing health conditions that might impact your oral health
It’s also important to keep up with regular dental checkups by seeing your dentist at least twice a year. If you notice any problems with your teeth, see your dentist for an exam.
By managing your oral health and keeping up with dental care, you’ll be taking strides toward a healthier mouth and a healthier you.