What Your Dental Health Says About Your Body
We might think about our oral and dental health as something distinct from our overall health, like we separate medical care from dental care. But, in recent years, there is more and more reason to look at our bodies as a whole, instead of as a bunch of separate systems and body parts. This has allowed us to realize that there are far more connections between our oral health and body health and that we need to start paying a lot more attention. So, what are all of these connections and how can we take advantage of them to put our health first?
How our mouth tells us if we’re healthy
There are two main ways that this works. Firstly, many diseases that affect our entire bodies have symptoms that manifest in our mouths. This means that your dentist might spot something that can be a sign of a bigger issue, and can direct you elsewhere for further testing. It also means that if a doctor suspects that you have a certain illness, they can send you to a dentist for a confirmation. Secondly, there are more and more proven connections between different oral illnesses and those that affect the entire body, such as people with gum disease being 40% more likely to also have a chronic condition. Taking all of this into consideration it’s no wonder that looking at our bodies as a whole – mouth included – is the future.
Oral health on its own
The first thing you should look at is your oral health. Before it gives you any input on the state of health for the rest of your body, you have to make sure to take care of it. Firstly, you should take into consideration your genetics. If your family has a history of dental health issues, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist more frequently. Secondly, you need to keep track of your habits, and be honest with yourself and your dentist. Having severe tooth decay might lead your doctor to believe there is an underlying condition, when in fact you might just have a bad diet and poor oral hygiene.
Speaking of which, good dental hygiene is crucial. If you let bacteria build up on your teeth and gums, your gums can become infected and inflamed, and that inflammation can cause problems in the rest of the body. It’s always the best course of action to have your own dentist. I’ve been going to my local Chatswood orthodontist for years, and that means that they know exactly how my teeth react and what any potential problems might be. If you do have to switch dentist regularly, make sure you update them with your dental history.
Oral health contributing to disease
Sometimes, poor oral health can contribute to diseases our body is fighting against. This is most often the case if inflammation of the gums goes untreated. Your gums are an important part of your body, and the inflammation can spread to other parts, causing conditions as severe as endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart). Other cardiovascular problems could possibly be caused by the infection traveling through your blood and to your veins, arteries and the heart. Periodontitis, a form of gum infection, has been tied to premature births and low birth weights, meaning it’s even more important than to see your dentist while you are pregnant.
Oral health as a sign of disease
Flipping the coin to where the conditions manifest themselves through the mouth, we realize why it’s so important to go to our dentists often. Diabetes is notorious for reducing the body’s ability to resist infection, meaning that people who have diabetes are a lot more prone to gum disease. Not only that, but people with gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar level, demonstrating a clear connection.
Osteoporosis is another condition that can be linked to dental health, since the weakening of the bones can cause tooth loss and periodontal bone loss. Some drugs used to treat the condition can cause damages to the jaw, so keeping an eye on your oral health is key. A possibly unexpected disease that can be seen through bad oral health is Alzheimer’s, which is probably due to people with Alzheimer’s forgetting parts of their daily routine, like brushing their teeth.
Don’t neglect your dental health
Our mouth is our first line of defense against a lot of things, and we have to make sure it is as healthy as possible. Not to mention, with poor oral health comes a host of problems that are tied to malnutrition and a poor diet, if eating or drinking causes severe discomfort in our teeth. The bottom line is, if we do our best to keep our oral health in top shape, it will help us spot any diseases that might be lurking in our body and manifesting themselves through our mouth, leading us to get treatment sooner.