Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, using some mouthwash, and visiting the dentist twice a year keeps your teeth and gums generally healthy and looking clean and white. But did you know that maintaining good oral hygiene is critical to your overall health as well?
Does that mean that not flossing regularly can be as bad for you as downing a big double cheeseburger and fries? Read on to find out!
Oral problems can reveal some other health issues you may have, like diabetes, heart disease, and even arthritis. There are a few theories as to why, but a large clue might be that everything we put into our mouths to eat, also impacts our teeth.
It may seem like common sense, but bacteria from the mouth can also work its way into your lungs, especially if you have an abundance of tooth plaque. This can cause, among other respiratory diseases, pneumonia. The risk of this happening is higher in people who have weakened immune systems.
Bacteria from tooth plaque in the airway can even worsen chronic conditions like emphysema as well.
Several different studies have linked periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection of the gums, with having an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes.
There is not a clear link between the two, though some doctors suggest it has to do with inflammation levels within our bodies. The working theory is that inflammation from periodontal disease could cause more inflammation, leading to heart disease. Others suggest that it has to do with bacteria in the mouth travelling into the bloodstream, contributing to plaque buildup.
However, we cannot say outright that bad oral health causes heart disease – they often share other risk factors as well, such as old age and smoking.
It is especially important to have good oral hygiene while pregnant because periodontal disease in pregnant women has been linked with an increased risk for preterm births. It isn’t clear as to why this is, but some suggest that it could be due to an immune response to infections in the mouth.
There is a caveat here: treating periodontal disease does not reduce the risk of an early birth.
Some studies suggest that oral bacteria in the mouth may make existing cases of rheumatoid arthritis, specifically in the knee, worse. Researchers looked to the synovial fluid, fluids in the joints, and compared the results of those who had knee arthritis and those who didn’t. Some people who suffer from the arthritis had gum bacteria in that fluid.
While the bacteria couldn’t cause arthritis, it could make matters worse. This is especially important for older people who may have more dental implants or dentures. Always use proper cleaning techniques and products when cleaning anything that will go into your mouth.
If the stomach is the way to a person’s heart, than the mouth is the way to a person’s health. As you can see, a healthy mouth is not only important for aesthetics, but your overall health as well.