Did you know that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Like many areas of the body, your mouth contains a lot of bacteria, which are mostly harmless. Normally, your body’s immune system and good oral hygiene care at home, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
In addition, medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics — can reduce saliva flow. Because saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, this reduction in saliva flow can lead to an increase of bacteria which can, in turn, lead to disease. Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with gum disease might play a role in other diseases.
Poor Oral Health Can Contribute to a Variety of Diseases
- Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth. Gum disease has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection which can be risky for gums.
- Osteoporosis. Weak and brittle bones might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Tooth loss before age 35 might be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Other conditions. Other conditions that might be connected to oral health are immune system disorders that cause dry mouth and eating disorders.
Good Oral Health Practices
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss daily
- Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner
- Schedule regular dental checkups
Contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Remember, taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.