The health of your mouth can affect the body in some surprising ways. Brushing and flossing the teeth are essential to keeping your beautiful smile. But having a good dental hygiene program does much more than keep your pearly whites in great shape; it can positively impact the entire body.
Ancient Societies Appeared to Understand Oral Hygiene
Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations attributed cavities and other oral health issues to small worms believed to burrow holes in teeth. These societies used frayed twigs to wash the teeth and rid the mouth of the worms. While they weren’t entirely accurate as to the source of the disorders, they were undoubtedly on the right track.
By the fall of the Roman empire, oral hygiene had come a long way with the advancement of metal crowns and herbal remedies to improve dental hygiene and help alleviate some of the discomforts of tooth decay and cavities. However, since anesthesia would not be readily available for several hundred years, these early patients endured excruciating pain.
It is unclear how much the ancients understood the connections between the health of the body and the health of the mouth, but they did appear to understand that taking care of the mouth was important. Today, we know much more about bacteria and their effect on the mouth, body, and our health in general.
The Importance of Bacterial Balance
As humans, we are more bacterial cells than anything else. The bacteria inside the mouth begin breaking down food into compounds and molecules that power the body and assist with countless body functions and activities. The warm, moist environment inside the mouth is perfect for bacteria to flourish, but when the levels of these bacteria are not in balance, it affects our health.
The bacterial balance of our mouth and gut is dynamic and constantly affected by the foods we eat, medications consumed, the amount of sleep we get each day, how much exercise we get, and many other variables. When our bacterial levels are out of balance for too long, the effects are evident in our overall health.
Oral Hygiene and Cardiovascular Health
Scientists have extensively studied the link between oral hygiene and cardiovascular health and noted that people with poor oral hygiene have higher rates of cardiovascular problems. Several theories abound about what could be causing this connection, but it seems to all come back to bacteria.
Infectious bacteria that cause gum disease can travel throughout the body and cause damage to blood vessels; this damage causes inflammation. This vascular inflammation gives the blood a smaller opening to pass through the blood vessels, increasing the chances of stroke or a heart attack.
While no direct connection has linked this scenario to cardiovascular issues, it is an avenue that is currently being explored. The exact ways that contributing factors like access to preventative care, smoking, and lack of exercise play a role are still unknown.
Oral Hygiene and Diabetes
Just over 10% of the American population has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and those are on the rise. As we age, our chances of developing diabetes increase, placing our health at risk. Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body does not correctly use food to make energy. Since the body does not use food energy or sugar, they remain in the bloodstream and lead to a condition known as high blood sugar.
High blood sugar causes damage to many-body systems, including the feet, kidneys, and eyes. Damage to the blood vessels caused by long-term high blood sugar puts you at higher risks for stroke, embolism, or heart attack.
Recent studies have found a link between the bacteria caused by gum disease and two major indicators for prediabetes. While this may be alarming, it’s essential to realize that both prediabetes and periodontitis (gum disease) are entirely reversible conditions.
Oral Hygiene and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become less dense and are placed at a greater risk for bone fracture and breakage. This condition currently affects more than 53 million American’s New research suggests a link between osteoporosis and loss of bone density in the lower jaw.
The bacteria caused by a gum disease infection break down the bone and connective tissues that hold teeth in place in the lower jaw. This breakdown will eventually cause the teeth to become loose and fall out. The exact relationship between gum disease and loss of bone is not clear, and studies are ongoing.
Oral Hygiene and Respiratory Infections
Poor oral hygiene places you at more significant risks for developing or worsening respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. An overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth can spread to the lungs when we breathe. This bacteria can exacerbate chronic conditions like COPD and place you at higher risks for developing other respiratory infections.
Ongoing Good Oral Hygiene
Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily goes a long way toward keeping the mouth bacteria levels in line. Visiting the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning will allow you to spot any problems or issues with your mouth or gums while they are small and easier to treat. Making dental health a priority now will help you achieve your healthy living goals and to prevent more involved and expensive dental work later on. Be sure to schedule a thorough dental exam and gentle cleaning at Las Cruces Dental Solutions to keep your teeth, and body, healthy and happy!