Dental Hygiene Window to Health

Christina Dodd 

The condition of your teeth and gums may more important than you think. A few facts about oral hygiene and how it affects your general well-being are all it takes to make sure you are taking the proper precautions to ensure your safety.

Dental Hygiene Window to HealthScientific studies have shown that the condition of gums and teeth can offer clues to general health. Likewise, problems in these areas can affect the entire body. Just what can you do to understand this intricate correlation and protect yourself?

How are oral hygiene and general health related?

The mouth, especially the gum area, is a breeding ground for bacteria. Although most of these are harmless, a few pose a significant health risk. When the body’s natural defense system is in balance, bacteria normally cause few problems. Regular visits to the dentist, as well as daily brushing and flossing, usually keep germs under control. Sometimes, though, an overgrowth of harmful bacteria can cause infections in the mouth, gum disease, tooth decay. Also, medications, dental procedures, and other treatments decrease the saliva level in the mouth. As a result, the normal balance of bacteria is disturbed, and they are more likely to enter the bloodstream.

What health problems are linked to oral health?

The condition of your mouth may contribute to various illnesses and conditions. It may, also, be affected by certain ailments, including the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate that clogged arteries, strokes, and heart disease could be linked to bacteria in the mouth. Periodontitis — a serious form of gum disease — may cause chronic inflammation that affects the heart and circulatory system.
  • Endocarditis. Dental procedures and gum diseases than create fissures or cuts in the gums can provide an entryway for germs to enter the bloodstream. Especially for people who have a damaged heart valve or weak immune system, this can cause an infection in other parts of the body, especially the inner lining of the heart.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth. Low birth weight and premature births have been linked to gum disease.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes lowers the body’s ability to fight infections and increases the likelihood of gum infections. Another potential complication occurs when inadequate control of insulin cause frequent and serious inflammation of the gums, affecting bones that support the teeth. Diabetics are at greater risk for tooth loss than the general population.
  • AIDS/HIV. People who suffer from HIV or AIDS have an increased chance of developing complications, such as painful mucosal lesions.
  • Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle and weak. It is frequently associated with tooth loss and periodontal bone loss.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. The loss of teeth before the age of 35 may put people at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other conditions. Sjogren’s syndrome — a disorder of the immune system — and eating disorders may be linked to oral health.

Be sure to inform your dentist about any health changes and provide a list of medications being taken. If you have recently been ill or if you have a chronic health issue, make sure the information is included on your chart.

How can these complications be avoided?

To prevent health conditions resulting from poor oral hygiene, follow these steps:

  • Brush your teeth at least two times each day.
  • Every 3-4 months, replace your toothbrush.
  • Floss every day.
  • Limit snacks between meals and maintain a balanced diet.
  • See your dentist for regular check-ups.

Be aware of signs of oral disease and see your dentist immediately if you develop problems. Remember that taking care of your teeth and gums is important to your entire body.

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