Your mouth is full of bacteria, mostly harmless but with some bad ones in the mix. If the balance tips towards the more bad bacteria, then it leads to oral health issues.
Numerous studies done over the years, have proved the important link between oral health and its impact on your overall health. According to the WHO, ‘Most oral diseases and conditions share modifiable risk factors with the leading noncommunicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes)’.
What is the connection between oral hygiene and your overall health?
Good oral health care is a great way to strengthen the body’s natural defences against disease as it keeps bacteria under control. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. When you have poor oral health it allows the bacteria in the mouth to reach really high levels that can lead to oral infections that cause periodontal disease, affect your teeth and gums and cause tooth decay. This in turn allows infections to enter the rest of your body causing your overall health to be compromised.
Maintaining healthy gums and teeth is a lifelong commitment and practicing good oral hygiene will help you uphold that commitment. You will not only be able to better avoid costly dental procedures, but it will also benefit your overall health in the long term. Good health is a gift we give ourselves so that we can live, experience and enjoy our lives to the fullest and not be hindered by health issues.
How does oral hygiene affect your overall health?
Good oral and dental health is more than just maintaining good teeth. It is important to have good oral health so that you do not cause other health complications to arise or if you already suffer from any diseases such as diabetes, to further aggravate them.
Usually caused by an infection, endocarditis is a life-threatening inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves. In some cases, excess bacteria in the mouth can cause endocarditis in people with a higher risk factor for heart disease. Poor oral hygiene can lead to this as the bacteria multiple and can, if not careful, enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart.
Periodontal infections can cause the systematic inflammation or immune response that can increase cardiovascular risk. Initial research suggests that strokes, cardiovascular disease and clogged arteries might be linked with infections caused by oral bacteria. Poor oral hygiene leads to increased bacteria in the mouth which infects gums and causes gum disease. This excess bacterial also travel into the bloodstream causing blood vessel inflammation and damage. This in turn leads to the creation of small blood clots which can cause heart attacks or strokes.
Pregnancy and birth complications
According to the CDC nearly 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis caused by changing hormones during pregnancy. Gingivitis which is an early stage of periodontal disease causes gums to become red and swollen. Research has suggested that bad oral health during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight, gingival tissue ulcerations, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy tumours, dental erosions, tooth loss and mouth dryness.
According to a study conducted the risk of pneumonia was higher in people with noticeable dental issues such as a high number of cavities and missing teeth. This is when compared to a group of people who brush daily and get their teeth professionally cleaned regularly. When there is excess harmful bacteria in the mouth it cases tooth decay and similar dental problems that can lead to infection. This can spread to your lungs, heart and throughout the rest of the body. Pneumonia, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are some of the respiratory diseases that occur due to poor oral hygiene.
How do you protect your oral health?
The best way to prevent the excess growth of harmful bacteria is to practice good oral hygiene and to keep your gums and teeth in top condition. Once the habit of maintaining a good oral health routine is established it will be simple for you to adhere to it.
- Morning and evenings should include time allocated for brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Make sure you are brushing properly for maximum effect. Use gentle circular motions to remove plaque. Give your tongue a gentle brushing as well.
- Be sure to clean between your teeth daily with floss or an interdental brush. This is not just to remove food particles from between your teeth but to stimulate the gums as well. It also helps reduce plaque and lower inflammation. Flossing once a day is enough.
- Use a recommended antiseptic mouth rinse. It helps reduce the acid levels in your mouth and cleans areas that not easy to reach with your tooth brush.
- Drink lots of water because not only does it keep your mouth hydrated but it is beneficial for your overall health as well. Further, drinking water after eating helps immediately wash out food particles and counter the negative effects of sticky or acidic food and beverages. It helps reduce teeth staining as well.
- Whenever possible eat food that is beneficial for your teeth such as fresh and crunchy fruits and vegetables. Not only are they good for your teeth but they are full of healthy fibre as well. It is best to limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods as they can erode your tooth enamel. Damaged tooth enamel leads to cavities and further dental and health problems. If you do consume acidic fruits, teas and coffee then try and drink water afterwards to counter the effects.
Adopting these habits will help you maintain your oral health which will help you maintain overall health. It is still essential though that you aim for wo regular check-ups a year with your dentist and dental hygienist. Have your teeth cleaned properly during which your dentist will be able remove any plaque build-up and check for cavities and other potential oral health issues.
The synergic connection between oral hygiene and its effects on overall health has been established. While before it was assumed good oral hygiene habits were just to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, it now goes beyond. Maintaining healthy oral habits will prevent gum disease and prevent it from causing health complications throughout the rest of your body. Adopt these effective oral hygiene habits and book an appointment with your dentist and start truly looking after your health and wellbeing.