Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums is a worthy goal for more than the obvious reasons.
As well as helping to prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease, a healthy mouth may also help you to ward off medical disorders whilst an unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems.
Your mouth serves as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease — a disease that affects or pertains to your entire body, not just one of its parts. Systemic conditions such as AIDS or diabetes, for example, often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.
Although your saliva helps protect you against some invaders, it cannot always do the job. More than 500 species of bacteria thrive in your mouth at any given time. These bacteria constantly form dental plaque — a sticky, colourless film that can cling to your teeth and cause health problems. If you don’t brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth clean, this plaque can build up along your gumline, and create an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth. This gum infection is known as gingivitis. Left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis which could eventually lead to tooth loss.
Bacteria from your mouth normally don’t enter your bloodstream. However, invasive dental treatments — sometimes even just routine brushing and flossing if you have gum disease — can provide a port of entry for these microbes. Medications or treatments that reduce saliva flow and antibiotics that disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth can also compromise your mouth’s normal defenses and allowing these bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
If you have a healthy immune system, the presence of oral bacteria in your bloodstream should not cause any problems. However, if your immune system is weakened, for example, because of a disease or cancer treatment, oral bacteria in your bloodstream (also known as bacteremia) may cause you to develop an infection in another part of your body. Infective endocarditis, in which oral bacteria enter your bloodstream and stick to the lining of diseased heart valves, is an example of this phenomenon.
If you didn’t already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, teeth, and gums, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more. Practice good oral hygiene every day and make an investment in your overall health, not just for now, but for the future, too.
Contact us today and book an oral health review