Oral Health and Its Connection to the Rest of Your Body
It’s safe to say that most of us understand the importance of maintaining a daily brushing, flossing, and mouth washing routine. Our parents, guardians, dentists, and Saturday morning cartoons taught us that a proper oral-health routine will keep our smiles white and our natural teeth in our heads. But, like everything in the health and wellness world, there’s more to this story.
You see, oral health is about so much more than vanity. No mouth is an island. It’s part of an interconnected biological system. Good oral health protects against cavities, sure. But a comprehensive oral health strategy can also protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia.
Today on Healthversed, we open the world of oral health wide to uncover the dangers of poor oral health and share a few tips that’ll keep you smiling. Let’s go!
Diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease. That much has been scientifically known for quite some time. But more and more research suggests that the two seemingly unrelated complications are in reality, intertwined.
That’s right! Poor oral health has been shown to affect your body’s ability to control blood glucose levels which may “contribute to the progression of diabetes.” The danger doesn’t end there. That’s because diabetes can often lead to kidney damage, hearing loss, nerve damage, and more.
Tip: Ease up on the Sugar
Just because you hate the dentist doesn’t mean that you should disregard their sage advice. They know way more about teeth than all of us. And they resoundingly suggest that you cut back on sugar! It’s another textbook example of addition by subtraction.
You see, sugar is like jet fuel for the harmful tooth-eating bacteria that call your mouth their home. It really is that simple. If you must eat sugar, be sure to brush away that bacteria feeding junk before the bacteria have time to make it to the dinner table. That means ASAP!
Symptom: Heart Disease
Researchers still don’t fully understand the link between heart disease and periodontitis but nonetheless, a link between the two certainly exists. Not only does periodontal disease (caused by poor oral health practices) increase an individual’s risk of developing heart disease, but it can also exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions. By the numbers, as many as 91% of heart disease patients also have periodontitis. That’s no accident.
Symptoms of periodontitis include swollen gums, tender gums, gums that bleed easily, and gums that pull away from your teeth. If your brief, self diagnosis came back inconclusive than we have four words for you…
Tip: Book a Periodontal Exam
In a manner of speaking, a periodontist is your friendly neighbourhood gum doctor. They specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease. They are also trained to handle dental implants as well, but for the purpose of this conversation, we’ll be focusing on gum disease.
The important thing to remember is that periodontists and dentists are, in fact, different. Should you or your dentist detect the symptoms of gum disease, booking an appointment with your local periodontist is highly recommended. Remember, periodontal disease is treatable! So, overcome your fear of white coats and pointy utensils, and make the phone call as soon as you can.
Have you booked that appointment yet? That’s ok. It’s barely been three seconds. And we still have a few more dental tips and scary factoids to sort through!
Unfortunately, the bad news for the anti-brushing community doesn’t stop at diabetes and heart disease. According to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study, gum disease can actually increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The study found that men with poor oral hygiene increased their pancreatic cancer risk by as much as 64%. Gentlemen, if that doesn’t make you want to floss than we don’t think anything will.
Tip: Stop Smoking Immediately
Improve your smile, breath, and oral hygiene in one fowl swoop by kicking the butts to the curb! If you really want to take your oral health, and your overall health, to the next level then you should snuff out the smokes once and for all.
Smoking is awful for a lot of reasons. But let’s focus in on the mouth. Smokers open their palate up to bad breath, tooth discoloration, inflammation of the salivary gland, increased loss of bone within the jaw, increased risk of developing oral cancer, and an increased risk of developing gum disease. There really isn’t a whole lot else to say about it. Quitting smoking can be difficult. But not as difficult as, say, trying to get a date with yellow teeth. Start here and start now.
Symptom: Erectile Dysfunction
We repeat, no mouth is an island. Everything, from the food that you eat, to the exercises that you skip, to the teeth that you don’t brush, is connected. Case in point – the impact of oral health on erectile dysfunction.
A recent Taiwanese study found that men with erectile dysfunction were 79% more likely to have been diagnosed with chronic periodontal disease than men without erectile dysfunction. It’s believed that the gum disease related inflammation does serious damage to your endothelial cells, which in turn impairs the flow of blood to the penis. We could go on, but my guess is that you’ve already made a mad dash to the closest pharmacy to stock up on anything and everything in the oral health aisle.
Tip: Check Your Medications
Your doctor may have neglected to mention it, but it is very possible that your over-the-counter medication is negatively impacting your oral health. Common side-effects of popular prescription medications can often include abnormal bleeding, enlarged gum tissue, dry mouth, soft tissue reactions, and more. If you practice safe brushing but still notice a few unexplainable oral health annoyances, ask your doctor.
Symptom: Pregnancy Complications
We’ve discussed at length the damage that poor oral health habits can have on your overall health, but what if we told you that your naughty behavior may impact your unborn child? We truly can’t stress the importance of brushing and flossing enough.
Research has shown that poor oral health, more specifically the development of chronic gum disease, can lead to preterm delivery and babies with low birth weight. This is not to be confused with pregnancy gingivitis, which is a normal symptom of pregnancy. If you can’t distinguish between the two or are unsure, play it safe and ask your dentist.
Tip: Examine Your Mouth
You’re probably better off leaving the diagnosis to the professionals, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check yourself out on occasion. Next time you brush, check your mouth for abnormalities like red or receding gums, bleeding, loose teeth, discoloration, and more. Explore your own mouth as best as you can, get familiar with it, and consult a professional as soon as you notice something amiss.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, gum disease has also been linked to dementia. A recent study done by the University of Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry found a prominent link between Alzheimer, Dementia, and the gum disease causing bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis.
We know, this is all some really scary stuff. But the important thing to remember is that protecting yourself from all of these terrible oral health related issues can be as simple as regularly brushing your teeth!
Tip: Brush At Least Twice a Day
Here at Healthversed, we never shy away from restating the obvious. That’s because sometimes the obvious needs to be restated. Brushing your teeth affects the health of your entire body — so, brush your darn teeth! At an absolute minimum, you should brush your teeth once in the morning and once again right before bed.
Symptom: Respiratory Problems
The jury is still out on whether or not periodontal disease can lead to respiratory problems, but we believe that it should be on your radar either way. Scientists are still researching the link right now! Some believe that harmful, periodontal disease causing bacteria can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory issues. Like we said, the jury is still out on this one, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about it!
Tip: See Your Dentist Regularly
It goes without saying that your family dentist knows your mouth better than you do. They have the tools and the education to spot abnormalities as they occur. So don’t skip out on the dentist. Though it’s recommended that you receive a cleaning twice per year, once every eight months should suffice, assuming that you don’t already suffer from any serious oral health problems.