You (hopefully) brush and floss your teeth every day under the assumption that it will give you a healthy, sparkling smile that is free of problems like cavities and bad breath. While this is certainly true, new research has shown that by taking care of your oral health, you’re also protecting your overall health at the same time. The two are deeply interconnected, and today, we reveal just some of the ways your mouth and body can directly affect each other.
The Connection Between Oral & Overall Health
Your mouth, just like every other part of your body, is teeming with bacteria. Some of it is helpful, aiding in the breaking down of food, and other kinds can be harmful, like those that contribute to periodontal (gum) disease. Routinely brushing and flossing your teeth and seeing your dentist help keep this potentially harmful bacteria in check, but if it’s allowed to accumulate, it can lead to an infection. And, because anything in your mouth has the ability to literally travel everywhere else in your body, this bacteria has the potential to enter your bloodstream and cause all kinds of general health issues.
Of course, this is a two-way street, as conditions that affect the body can also show symptoms within the mouth, meaning your dentist may be the first person to spot the initial signs of a potentially serious disease. This is just another reason not to miss out on your regular checkups!
How Oral & Overall Health Can Affect Each Other
Over the past few years, an extensive amount of research has been dedicated to learning more about this connection. So far, it has discovered that less than optimal oral health can drastically increase a person’s chances of suffering from conditions like:
- Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart)
- Cardiovascular Disease (including heart attack & stroke)
- Pregnancy Complications (expecting mothers with advanced periodontal disease suffer from higher rates of premature birth and low birthweight)
On the other side, certain overall health problems have also been shown to directly affect a person’s oral health:
- Diabetes (this disease makes the body more prone to infection, so those with diabetes tend to have a higher occurrence of periodontal disease)
- HIV/AIDS (similar to diabetes, this hampers the immune system and makes a person more susceptible to oral infections)
- Osteoporosis (this can cause bone loss in the jaw as well as throughout the body)
- Alzheimer’s Disease (a loss in cognitive function can inhibit a person’s ability to take care of themselves, including their teeth)
How to Keep Yourself Protected
Fortunately, taking care of your oral health (and by extension your overall health) is quite straightforward, and you probably know some of the best ways to do it already, including:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each
- Flossing once in the evening
- Eating a balanced diet that is low in foods with a lot of added sugar
- Avoiding tobacco use
- Seeing your dentist for regular checkups so they can catch problems as early as possible
Science is finally catching up to what dentists have known for years, in that you can’t have a healthy body without a healthy mouth. If you’re looking to feel good from head to toe, one of the best things you can do is take a few minutes each day to clean your teeth—the health benefits are more than worth the time!
About the Author
Dr. Masha Kogan is a dentist based in Westport, CT with over 20 years of experience. She uses her knowledge and skill every day to protect the smiles and health of all her patients, and nothing makes her happier than helping someone avoid a serious health issue by ensuring they get the care they need as early as possible. To learn more about everything you’ve just read or schedule your next checkup, she can be contacted through her website.