Oral health is more important than most people might realize. There is an intimate connection between a person’s oral health and his or her overall health. Years ago, physicians who suspected diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions would not have contemplated referring patients to a gum specialist. Fortunately, recent research demonstrates that there are links between dental hygiene and overall health. Today, doctors are taking a more holistic approach when it comes to their patients’ overall health. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide, 60 to 90 percent of children and almost 100% of adults have an oral condition. In addition, oral diseases are the fourth most costly diseases to treat in certain countries.
To understand how dental hygiene can affect a person’s overall health, it helps to recognize what can go wrong in the first place. Like many other parts of the body, the mouth is teeming with both harmful and harmless bacteria. Normally, good oral hygiene such as daily brushing and flossing and the body’s natural defenses can keep these bacteria under control. On the other hand, without proper dental care, bacteria can reach dangerous levels that might cause infections such as tooth decay, gum disease, and other more serious conditions. Some of the ailments and diseases linked to poor dental hygiene and oral health include:
The connection between periodontitis and diabetes may be the strongest between the mouth and the body. Inflammation in the mouth caused by poor oral hygiene weakens the body’s ability to control blood sugar. Diabetics have trouble processing sugar due to lack of insulin. In addition, periodontitis and diabetes have a two–way relationship, which further complicates matters. Symptoms of diabetes include:
• Excessive thirst and increased urination
• Weight loss
• Blurred vision
• Frequent infections
• Swollen, tender, or red gums
• Tingling hands and feet
Research suggests that infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria might cause clogged arteries, heart disease and stroke. Up to 91% of people with heart conditions have periodontitis, which leads experts to suspect that the two conditions are linked. The dental and oral health experts at Natural Smiles believe that the inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the arteries, which can increase the risk of a heart attack. Symptoms of heart disease include:
• Irregular heart beats
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness and weakness
• Faster heartbeat
Poor oral health may also cause other diseases and complications such as premature births, osteoporosis, endocarditis, HIV, Alzheimer’s, Sjogren’s syndrome, and eating disorders.
In conclusion, the mouth and body are not separate. The mouth can affect the body and likewise, the body can affect the mouth. Good dental hygiene can help people live longer. This means brushing one’s teeth twice a day, flossing daily, eating a balanced diet, and scheduling regular dental checkups.