Do you think dental visits only concern your oral health? You shouldn’t! While dentists are primarily concerned with your teeth, what they do affects your whole body. Not only can some illnesses be identified by your dentist, other diseases and illnesses can be prevented through good dental care. Not everyone is aware of how dental health affects overall health, but some of the connections are significant!
Inflammation: A Big Part of How Dental Health Affects Overall Health
One of our body’s most effective means of protecting itself is inflammation. When your immune system detects foreign bacteria, it uses inflammation to create an inhospitable environment for them with the goal of killing the bacteria.
While short-term inflammation is beneficial, it’s not good for our bodies to deal with inflammation in the long-term. Chronic inflammation is most commonly caused in the gums – due to gum disease. Bacteria forming into plaque or tartar on your gums creates a constant assault of your gum tissue, which your body responds to with more inflammation. Over a long period of time, this chronic inflammation can damage your gums, the bone beneath them and the entire structure of your mouth.
Beyond that, however, is how dental health affects overall health. This inflammation in your gums is associated with several illnesses or diseases throughout your whole body. While the science is still developing and not fully understood, the connections are clear: more inflammation increases your chances of other whole-body health issues.
Illnesses Associated with Dental Health
The number one concern for doctors of all specialties is your heart. It’s no secret that your heart health is critical for a long, healthy life. But you may be surprised to learn that brushing your teeth and gums is part of a long-term plan to keep your heart free of disease!
Poor dental care not only increase inflammation, but it also introduces more bacteria into your body and blood stream, increasing your chance of infection. If these bacteria reach your lining around your heart chambers or valves, it can cause a life-threatening infection.
This isn’t a rare event, either. Endocarditis is most often caused by oral bacteria spreading through your blood stream. While treatable, the longer the infection has to take root, the higher a patient’s chances of dying become.
The other part of heart health tied to your dental health is the ever-increasing risk of cardiovascular disease. As arteries clog and blood pressure rises, your chances of a heart attack or stroke also rise. The causes of cardiovascular disease are many, but researchers have found clear connections between the rates of cardiovascular disease and those with poor oral health.
Connections are typically attributed to both inflammation and its effect on your general well-being, plus the increased risk of infection and its similar effects. Ultimately, brushing your teeth is a small amount of time to dedicate to potentially reducing your chances of catastrophic heart failure!
Doctors working with senior patients fighting symptoms of pneumonia found a clear shift in oral bacteria prior to their illness. Like heart health, the connection is still being investigated, but scientists have concluded that good oral hygiene reduces the mortality rate from aspirating with pneumonia.
On top of this finding, scientists do know that bacteria in your mouth can spread to your lungs. This mechanism is identical to how oral bacteria can affect your heart. Any time your body has to fight bacteria, you experience inflammation and your body can be temporarily or permanently weakened from it. If you have less bacteria in your mouth, your chances of passing bacteria to your lungs and sparking an infection decrease.
Other Illnesses Connected to Your Oral Health
As we learn how dental health affects overall health, we also learn more about illnesses that can worsen oral health in return. One of the most common ways overall health can impact oral health is through diabetes.
Those with diabetes who don’t control their blood sugar do direct harm to their white blood cells. These are the specific types of cells that protect against external bacteria – including oral bacteria. As white cells continue to weaken, oral infections are more likely.
Here are some other ways diabetes can worsen your oral health:
Xerostomia – Saliva is a core part of your oral defense. It equalizes the pH balance of your mouth, and gently washes away bacteria or food particles. Diabetes reduces saliva production, which ultimately means a higher chance of tooth decay and infection.
Inflammation – Diabetes renders blood vessels less effective at moving nutrients or waste to and from tissue in the body. As far as oral health goes, this means the body’s ability to fight bacteria and infection on the gums worsens. The body then uses inflammation to help fight infection, feeding into a cycle that worsens dental and overall health.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones lose density over time, typically affecting older men or women. As bones lose density, they become more likely to fracture and less capable of holding up against typical use.
While it’s most commonly associated with problems like broken hips or fractured wrists, it’s important to remember that the bone in our jaws keeps our dental health in check. Just ask any orthodontist about the importance of jaw bones!
When your jawbone weakens, its ability to anchor your teeth in place and support the necessary functions of chewing and speaking are at risk. Osteoporosis makes other dental health issues, like chronic inflammation from periodontal disease, even more dangerous. The combined effect makes tooth loss practically inevitable.
A Healthy Smile Leads to a Healthy Body
We want to help you maintain good oral health and a beautiful smile. Regular teeth cleaning and dental check-ups are an important part of your routine, just like brushing and flossing. Schedule an appointment with us or call and take the first step toward keeping your smile radiant.
Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480
Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300
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