As dentists, our patients often ask us about the link between oral health and overall health. While many people may think of oral health as either separate from the rest of the body or connected to heart disease only, research has shown that the mouth is actually a gateway to the body, and that poor oral health can have significant impacts on overall health.
The mouth is home to millions of bacteria, both good and bad. When the balance of bacteria in the mouth is disrupted, it can lead to a variety of oral health problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. But the effects of poor oral health don’t stop there. Here are just a few ways that oral health is connected to overall health:
Research has shown that there is a link between gum disease and heart disease. In fact, people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease as those without gum disease. It is thought that the bacteria that cause gum disease can enter the bloodstream and contribute to the formation of plaques in the arteries, leading to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes and gum disease have a two-way relationship. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, and gum disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. This is because the inflammation caused by gum disease can affect insulin sensitivity, making it harder for the body to use insulin properly.
Respiratory infections: Poor oral health can also lead to respiratory infections, such as pneumonia. This is because the bacteria in the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs, causing infections. This is particularly true for people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly or those with chronic lung diseases.
Pregnancy complications: Women with gum disease are more likely to have premature or low birth weight babies. It is thought that the inflammation caused by gum disease can trigger an immune response that can lead to premature labor.
Alzheimer’s disease: Some research suggests that there may be a link between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that the bacteria that cause gum disease may be able to travel from the mouth to the brain, contributing to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
So, what can you do to protect your oral health and your overall health? Here are a few tips:
Brushing and flossing regularly: Make it a habit to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day to remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums.
Visit your dentist regularly: Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help to prevent oral health problems and catch any issues early.
Eat a healthy diet: A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to promote good oral health and overall health.
Don’t smoke: Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease and a host of other health problems.
Manage chronic conditions: If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, be sure to work with your healthcare provider to manage your condition and maintain good oral health.
In conclusion, oral health and overall health are closely linked. By taking care of your oral health, you can help to protect your overall health and reduce your risk of a variety of health problems. If you have any concerns about your oral health, you can book an appointment with us.