How Oral Health Impacts Your Overall Health

The Importance of Oral Health: How it Can Impact Your Overall Health

You know it’s important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But what you may not know is how vital your oral health is for your health overall. The health of your mouth, teeth, gums can affect the rest of your body in a number of ways. And poor oral health doesn’t just affect your teeth and gums but has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Here’s why: Your mouth is your body’s entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts. When your teeth and gums are unhealthy, harmful bacteria can travel through your bloodstream to other parts of your body. So, knowing the signs of poor oral health and correcting them can help you maintain your overall health and wellness. 

New patients, please call us at (210) 880-4120

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Poor Oral Health: What Are The Signs?

When your gums are healthy, they appear pale and pink. However, poor oral hygiene can lead to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria can collect on and around the teeth to form a substance called plaque.

If plaque is not removed daily, it can harden and turn into tartar, a much harder substance that can’t be removed by a toothbrush, and which accumulates under the gum line and between the teeth. Tartar creates a “shield” over the bacteria which traps it, causing it to further inflame and damage the teeth and gums. The only thing that can eliminate tartar is a professional dental cleaning. 

oral healthWhen bacteria build up in the mouth like this and attack the teeth and gums, it leads to inflammation.  This inflammation is called gingivitis and is the most common, chronic inflammatory condition in the human body. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and it’s vital to deal with. Symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • Puffy or swollen gums
  • Gums that have dark red areas
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Bad breath
  • Foul taste in the mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Gums that are tender or painful
  • Cavities

When gingivitis isn’t addressed, it leads to periodontal disease, a far more serious gum disease issue. Once periodontal disease sets in, it can lead to broken teeth, tooth loss, even loss of jawbone — and it can impact health throughout your body. 

Causes of Gum Disease

You may not know that gum disease affects one in every two adults. It’s also two and a half times more prevalent than diabetes. And while poor oral hygiene is a major cause of gum disease, other factors can also contribute. These include: 

  • Chewing tobacco or smoking
  • Dry mouth
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • Crooked teeth or poor-fitting dental work
  • Compromised immune system (cancer, cancer treatment, HIV, autoimmune diseases)
  • Certain medications that lessen the flow of saliva (including some decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics, and antidepressants)
  • Hormonal changes associated with menopause or pregnancy
  • Some chronic fungal or viral infections
  • Diabetes (gum disease can also cause diabetes)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Eating disorders such as Bulimia and Anorexia

 

How Gum Disease Affects The Body 

If you have chronic gingivitis or periodontal disease, oral bacteria can pass to other parts of your body. Studies have shown that there is evidence of oral bacteria in the plaque located in the coronary arteries — and that atherosclerosis can actually be caused by this plaque. In fact, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry studied over 1,000 case histories of people with gum diseases and noted that they were two times more likely to die from a heart attack and three times more likely to have a stroke!

There is also evidence that gum disease has a direct causal effect on endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Other studies have shown direct causal effects between gum disease and peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, and stroke. The common denominator for all of these is inflammation.

It is interesting to note that diabetes and gum disease can feed off each other, and extensive research has been conducted on the diabetes-oral health connection. It works like this: Gum disease causes inflammation, which impedes the body’s ability to use insulin to keep blood sugar under control. That uncontrolled blood sugar leads to rising inflammation levels in the body, making it more prone to infection — which includes the gums. Thus, it becomes a vicious cycle. 

Many people aren’t aware that they have serious conditions such as diabetes. That’s why it’s so important to see your dentist regularly: your oral health can indicate other underlying health problems, and your dentist can better understand the clues and alert you to them.

 

We Can Help You Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy!

Dental health maintenanceGood oral hygiene is a must if you want to maintain excellent dental and gum health, as well as improve your health overall. Your first step is to establish a good daily oral hygiene practice. Brush and floss at least twice daily and be sure to replace your toothbrush every three months. Using a mouth rinse can also help control harmful bacteria levels.

In addition, we are here to help keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, with regular checkups and dental cleaning. And if you do have gum disease, we will work to restore your mouth to optimal health. That way, your oral health can impact your overall health in a positive way. 

Call us for more information about our services and let us answer any questions you may have.  Our New Patient Coordinator can get you all set up for an appointment.

New patients, please call us at (210) 880-4120

Or fill out the form below and we will contact you!