Have you ever asked yourself whether the health of your teeth and gums affects more than just your mouth? In fact, your whole body can be affected by how well you take care of your teeth.
The best foundation for good oral health is brushing twice daily, flossing once or twice daily, and seeing your dentist at least once or twice a year. Remember to follow these steps and most of the battle is already won.
Bacteria, saliva and your teeth
Your mouth is filled with different types of bacteria that do both good and bad things for your health. Some bacteria help food break down more easily and help with digestion. Some bacteria provide a protective coating for your teeth. And some bacteria live in peace in your mouth and kill other bacteria that might cause disease.
Saliva plays an important role and is more than just a liquid in your mouth — it is filled with different proteins called enzymes that help neutralize the acids produced by bacteria and wash away food. The bottom line is that too little saliva will let bacteria grow too fast.
Oral vs. overall health
Even though medicine is not completely sure why some mouth bacteria increase the risk of other diseases, we do know that people with poor oral health are more likely to develop the following overall issues:
This is a big one. People who take inadequate care of their mouths have been shown to have more cardiovascular diseases. These can include atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), a cerebral vascular accident (CVA) or stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and peripheral vascular disease (inflammation of the veins of the arms and legs).
This one works in reverse — diabetes actually has an impact on your body's immune system and ability to fight off infection. This means that people with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease because bacteria can gain an easier foothold. Additionally, it has been shown that those with gum disease have poorer diabetes control.
Another issue of the vascular system, this one is actually an infection of the inner lining of your endocardium (heart muscle). Bacteria that live on your teeth can be harmless while there but can cause disease when they move to other parts of the body, like your heart.
Remember that your teeth and jaw bones are also bone, so osteoporosis does not just affect the larger bones of the rest of your body. It seems that weakened teeth and jaw bones are linked to a greater risk of gum disease as well.
Premature birth and low birth weight
Gum disease has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth, so it is especially important for expectant mothers to take great care of their teeth.
How to take the best care of your mouth
As mentioned before, practicing good and regular oral hygiene is vital. Here are some other quick tips:
- Eat a healthy diet low in processed sugar
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months
- Avoid tobacco use
- See your dentist regularly
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