We all know the basics of having good oral health: make sure that your teeth and gums are free from plaque and bacteria by brushing and flossing. Having healthy teeth and gums helps stave away enamel erosion, tooth loss, tooth decay, and gum disease—but did you know that your oral health is actually connected to much more than just your mouth?
Having a healthy mouth can have a significant impact on the rest of your body and on your overall health. It might sound strange, but there are good reasons for this: you are constantly breathing and swallowing through your mouth. As a result, your mouth is the gateway to your digestive system, respiratory system, and even your bloodstream.
Understanding the connection between your oral health and your overall health can help you prevent—and in some cases, even diagnose—a range of conditions and diseases. Let’s look at a few of the most common ways that your oral health impacts your overall health:
More than 700 strains of bacteria have been found in the mouth. That may sound unhealthy, but those strains are actually composed of a mix of helpful and harmful bacteria. The good bacteria help keep your mouth clean by breaking down proteins and fighting against infection—but the bad bacteria can fester and create decay.
If you aren’t brushing and flossing regularly, you could have an influx of bad bacteria in your mouth. That bacteria can travel through your airway as you breathe and into your lungs, resulting in an infection such as pneumonia. If you scratch your gums while flossing or brushing, harmful bacteria could also travel through your bloodstream and develop into endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining in your heart valves and chambers).
Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums that is caused by a buildup of bacteria, resulting in bleeding, swelling, and discomfort. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that affects the area of your gum that surrounds your teeth—but aside from discomfort and occasional bleeding, gingivitis can have significant implications on other areas of your health.
Studies have linked it to rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis, and throat cancer. Recent research has even pointed to periodontal disease as being linked to Alzheimer’s, since the bacterial infection could potentially travel from the mouth into the brain.
Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing gum disease, increasing the need for routine oral healthcare. But for these patients, the risk is further complicated: gum disease will impact their ability to regulate their blood sugar, making it even more difficult to manage their diabetes.
A Healthy Mouth Equals a Healthy Body
Don’t underestimate the importance of brushing, flossing, drinking water, or using a fluoridated mouthwash. Having good oral health isn’t just about maintaining a white smile or protecting against cavities! Keeping your mouth healthy and free from bacteria and infections can bring significant benefits for your overall health—both today and in the years to come. Call Aurora Dental Group to schedule a checkup and start managing your oral health today!