What is Oral Health?Before we can move onto understanding the importance of oral health and its impact on overall health, we need to understand the components of what makes a healthy mouth. Oral health refers to the health of your teeth, gums, tongue, and all other areas of the mouth. Regular upkeep and maintaining oral hygiene are vital to leading a healthy life and preventing oral diseases like tooth decay, gingivitis, periodontitis, etc. Many people believe that healthy teeth can only be straight and white due to these being the widely publicized ‘ideal’. However, crooked teeth or stained teeth can still be present in a healthy mouth. The more critical signs of a healthy mouth are an absence of bad breath, healthy tongue, strong teeth, healthy gums, and a consistent teeth color. Things aren’t as simple as they seem. More and more data is coming out of the field of dentistry to suggest the importance of maintaining an oral microbiome to ensure optimal dental health. It is the second-largest collective genome of microorganisms in your body, and they reside in the oral cavity. We won’t bore you with details, but make sure to ask a dentist how you can take care of your oral microbiome and dental health.
How Dental Health Affects Overall HealthAs we mentioned earlier, a healthy mouth has a healthy microbiome living inside that maintains and actually improves dental health. However, poor oral health can disturb the balance of our mouth’s microbiome. This is because, typically, daily brushing and flossing would help keep the number of bacteria stable in healthy mouths. The rate of multiplication would be the same as the number of bacteria cleaned out.
Poor dental hygiene leads to a surplus of bacteria, which combine with sugar in our food to create acid. These acids damage our teeth by causing gum disease, cavities, periodontitis, and tooth decay, leading to infections. Your mouth is the entryway to your body. Therefore, these infections can spread to other parts of the body through your digestive tract and respiratory system.
This is how dental health affects overall health. Whenever you have a condition in your mouth, there is a significant risk that it will travel into your bloodstream and affect the rest of your body.
Let’s check out some of the health complications caused by poor dental hygiene and understand the importance of oral health.
Health Issues Caused by Poor Oral Health
Believe it or not, poor dental health can have an impact on the brain. Substances released from infections in the gum can travel down your digestive tract and get absorbed into your blood. This blood travels to your brain while carrying these toxins.
This can lead to the death of brain cells, which leads to poor functioning and memory loss. Severe gingivitis can lead to Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease due to the transmission of bacteria into your bloodstream and nerve channels.
Makes You More Vulnerable to Kidney Disease
Here’s another surprising way how dental health affects overall health. Infections caused by periodontal disease can cause kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease refers to a gradual loss of kidney function and is a severe problem.
Gum disease weakens the immune system and makes the body more vulnerable to infections. If an individual already has a weakened immune system, their chances of developing kidney disease are multiplied if they have gingivitis.
A clinical study by the EHWA Women’s University in South Korea found that individuals with dental health problems like gum disease or tartar had a higher chance of developing a blood sugar problem.
People with diabetes often suffer from gum disease due to high blood sugar, which can weaken teeth and gums. Periodontitis, a severe gum disease, can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb insulin medication taken by individuals suffering from diabetes to lower blood sugar. This means that the body’s blood sugar levels remain high and further damage the gums, leading to more inflammation.
A vicious cycle of worsening diabetes and periodontitis can simultaneously form if the problem is not addressed. This is a genuinely frightening way to see how dental health affects overall health.
Causes Respiratory Infections
The importance of oral health can be seen in a study published in the Journal of Medicine and Life, which found a link between periodontal infections and pulmonary diseases like acute bronchitis and pneumonia. They occur, once again, due to bacteria that live in the spaces between your teeth.
If the bacteria buildup is not taken care of, it can travel down your respiratory tract into your lungs. These bacteria can then cause all kinds of sinus infections or other serious respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.
This issue is particularly life-threatening for the elderly and those with weak immune systems.
Increases Risk of Heart Disease
Various studies across dentistry and cardiology have shown a positive correlation between gum disease and an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Many experts believe that the bacteria that cause gingivitis are to blame. As the bacteria buildup, some travel down into your digestive system and get absorbed into the bloodstream. Long term buildup of these bacteria in your blood vessels causes inflammation and damage. This can further lead to the formation of small blood clots and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Many studies have found the presence of some oral bacteria in blood samples taken from atherosclerotic blood vessels that are nowhere near the mouth.
Results in Rheumatoid Arthritis
The connection between oral health issues like gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis is that of inflammation. Both diseases are aggravated by inflammation. The bacteria from gingivitis can spread through the body and cause inflammation in the joints of people who are susceptible to arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society states that an individual is four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if they have gum disease.
Can Cause Pregnancy Complications and Infertility Issues
Everyone needs to maintain proper oral hygiene. However, good dental care is extremely essential for expecting moms. Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy can leave an expecting mom more vulnerable to oral infections.
According to a publication from the Society for General Microbiology, bacteria from a mouth infection can travel in a mother’s blood and be transmitted to her unborn child. This can multiply the risk of premature deliveries and low weight in newborn babies. The mom might also be susceptible to an early onset of contractions.
Additionally, poor dental health can be detrimental for women who are trying to conceive. The variety of health problems caused by gum disease can lead to difficulties in getting pregnant.
Results in Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among Americans. It typically begins as a small red or white sore/spot in the mouth. Oral cancer is much more common in smokers or individuals who use any other forms of alcohol or tobacco as their oral health is usually much worse than non-users.
Signs of oral cancer include:
- Sores that don’t heal easily and bleed
- Discolored tissue
- Numbness in your mouth
- Lumps in your mouth, neck, or cheeks
- Hard spots inside your mouth
Oral cancer is a potentially life-threatening disease with far-reaching consequences. Stop smoking and start taking care of your oral health today to save yourself from a lot of pain and suffering.
All these signs and symptoms can be indicative of other issues, and it is virtually impossible to diagnose oral cancer as a layman at home. Contact your dentist if you have any questions or if you notice any worrying signs.
Causes Erectile Dysfunction
This is one of the most intriguing insights on how dental health affects overall health on our list. Dental health can actually have an impact on your performance in the bedroom.
A paper published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences found that erectile dysfunction was more common in individuals who had poor dental health.
The study theorizes that the likely culprit is the oral bacteria that makes its way into the bloodstream and causes vessels to become inflamed. Inflammation can restrict blood flow to the genitals, thus preventing erections.
Signs of Poor Oral Health
Identifying the signs of poor oral health and the complications they can cause will help you notice and solve any potential problems before they get worse. Poor dental health can manifest itself in several different ways.
Let’s take a look at some of the tell-tale signs of poor oral health:
Swollen or Bleeding Gums
This is usually one of the first signs that something is not right inside your mouth. You may first notice this while brushing your teeth, even when you don’t use a lot of force when doing so.
Bleeding gums are most commonly caused by gum disease, resulting in plaque buildup around your teeth. This is a condition that can easily be solved by dental scaling or maintaining proper hygiene. However, poor upkeep can lead to periodontitis and your gum tissues pulling away from your teeth.
Changes in Your Tongue
No, we’re not talking about the blue tongue you get after eating an ice pop. If you notice a lasting change in your tongue’s color or texture, it could be the sign of an underlying issue.
A white coat on your tongue could be a sign of thrush, while red and swollen tongues could be a symptom of something more serious. You should ideally be cleaning your tongue every night.
Contact your dentist if you notice any changes in your tongue.
Erosion of Tooth Enamel
If you notice translucent tooth enamel in your mouth, it can often result from an acid reflux issue or an eating disorder. Excessive vomiting, seen in disorders like bulimia, can also erode your tooth surface.
Everyone can have bad breath. Maybe you didn’t have the best smelling breakfast, or maybe you just didn’t brush as well as you usually do in the morning. However, persistent bad breath that does not go away even after a proper dental hygiene routine indicates a serious issue.
Gum disease is a common cause of bad breath among a lot of people. Other than that, it can also result from an underlying health problem like a sinus infection, diabetes, liver/kidney disease, and so on.
It’s not easy to get a look inside your own mouth but try your best. Watch out for any blackish or brown spots on your teeth as they can be signs of cavity formation. Oral bacteria, high sugar diets and poor oral hygiene are some of the causes of cavities.
There are many signs of bad oral health, as discussed above. If you notice them, it is essential for you to visit a dentist immediately. If you don’t, it can lead to more severe health issues.
You now know everything there is to know about how dental health affects overall health. So, how do we solve these health issues? The best cure for any problem is deterrence.
Here are a few other tips for maintaining good oral health:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss between the teeth to remove dental plaque.
- Maintain yearly visits to the dentist. Checkups are essential in identifying any issues early on.
- Use antibacterial mouthwash regularly to kill any remaining bacteria in your mouth that could cause gingivitis. Many types of mouthwash available are specifically made to prevent gum disease.
- Stop smoking if that is something you do. Smokers have double the probability of non-smokers to develop gum disease.
- Reduce your sugar intake as sugar can stick to your teeth and cause plaque buildup.
We cannot stress the importance of oral health enough. By following these simple tips, you can save yourself from a lot of future pain and also from spending a load of money on dental procedures. Our friendly staff at Soft Touch are available to talk with you about any dental issues or questions you may have.