Did you know that your mouth, teeth, and gums can affect your overall health? Bacteria can cause disease and your mouth is the entry point to your digestive system and respiratory tract. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can cause infections, such as tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease. According to the CDC, more than 40% of adults report having felt pain in their mouth within the last year, and more than 80% of people will have had at least one cavity by age 34.
Saliva neutralizes acids that are produced by bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to disease. And certain medications can reduce saliva flow.
Oral conditions are frequently considered separate from other chronic conditions, but these are actually interrelated. Studies suggest that bacteria and inflammation in the mouth are associated with gum disease (periodontitis) and might play a role in some diseases like cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and more. And diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.
Oral Health and Various Disease
Your oral health may contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:
• Oral cancer – Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for these cancers. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is about 61 percent.
• Cardiovascular disease – Research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke may be linked to inflammation and infections from bacteria in the mouth.
• Pneumonia – Certain bacteria in your mouth can reach your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
• Endocarditis – An infection of the inner lining of your heart valves (endocardium) occurs when bacteria spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
• Pregnancy – Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Medical Conditions and Oral Health
Certain medical conditions may affect your oral health, including:
• Diabetes – Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe in people who have diabetes. Diabetes puts your gums at risk by reducing the body’s resistance to infection. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
• Osteoporosis – This disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
• Alzheimer’s disease – Oral health is worsened as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
• HIV/AIDS – Oral problems are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
• Other medical conditions – They might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Tell your dentist about the medications you take and about changes in your overall health, especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.
How to Protect Your Oral Health
Practice good oral hygiene daily to protect your oral health.
• Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes. Use a soft toothbrush or electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
• Floss daily.
• Rinse with mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
• Eat a healthy diet and limit sugar.
• Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if bristles are worn.
• Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
• Avoid tobacco use.
Your Overall Health
Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health. Be sure to contact your dentist if an oral health problem arises.