Many in the dental care industry focus on what good oral care means for your smile. While oral health is important cosmetically, it may encourage more people to practice good brushing and flossing habits and have regular dental checkups once they realize that oral health is linked to overall health and wellbeing.
Take, for example, diabetes. This serious health condition is strongly related to oral health. When infections occur in the mouth, the body’s primary response is inflammation. Unfortunately, many of the bacteria involved in periodontal disease feed on the byproducts of such inflammation. The inflammation also causes a response in the body that results in the body having an impaired ability to use insulin. Even if the body is producing enough insulin, the inflammation may result in higher blood sugar. On the other hand, once the inflammation in the mouth is reduced, the body can once again utilize insulin properly.
Another major risk factor that is associated with poor oral health is heart disease. More than 9 out of 10 patients who have heart disease also suffer from some sort of periodontitis. Again, increased inflammation in the body can have a negative effect on the heart. Blood vessels constrict which can result in hypertension. This, in turn, creates an environment in which a heart attack is more likely.
Should pregnant women be concerned about caring properly for their teeth? Absolutely! Gum disease has actually been linked to premature births. A baby that is born prematurely has increased chances for learning disorders, heart problems, and certain lung conditions. While oral infections are generally more common in men, pregnant women need to be on guard against periodontitis during this time period in which their hormones have changed dramatically.
Many other health conditions have been linked to poor oral health. Alzheimer’s is found more commonly in individuals who suffer tooth loss prior to age 35. Some studies have found a connection between osteoporosis and oral health (although more research is need to see if the connection is simply the result of teeth and bones both being affected by bone loss). Other immune disorders have also been linked to oral health.
Since dental health is so vital to your overall health, how can you protect yourself? Be sure to brush at least twice per day. Use floss on a daily basis, and be sure to clean the gum line. Don’t let your toothbrush get too old. You should go through 3 to 4 of them per year. Finally, be sure to see your dentist every six months for a checkup and a cleaning. Your good oral health may in fact help you to ward off many other serious health conditions.