Have you ever considered how maintaining your oral health ben efits your overall health and well-being? Sure, we all know that a healthy mouth, gums, and teeth lead to a happier, healthier smile, but how does this impact our other body systems?
Although often seen as separate, your oral health can have significant impacts on your overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that poor oral health can lead to a build-up of bacteria and even inflammation that is associated with negative impacts on a wide range of systems within the human body.
Importance of oral hygiene
While good oral hygiene helps you keep all your teeth and ensures you always have a big bright smile as you age, it also benefits your overall health. We all know that part of feeling good is looking good, so having an attractive smile goes a long way towards confidence and emotional well-being.
Maintaining good oral health allows you to eat, speak, smile, and laugh with confidence. Neglecting your oral health will likely result in bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay, cavities, and other negative impacts to your overall health.
How your oral health impacts your overall health
Within your mouth, there is a community of microorganisms composed of bacteria, viruses, and fungi called the oral microbiome. There are both beneficial and harmful types of oral microbiomes living in your mouth on the surfaces of the teeth, tongue, and gums.
With good oral health, balanced microbiomes operate as an immune system for your mouth by providing defence against possible invading entities. When there is an imbalance, often caused by poor oral hygiene, it is referred to as “dysbiosis”. This lack of balance can lead to many negative effects on oral health along with overall health. Infections and diseases that start in the mouth can enter your bloodstream or airways which can carry the harmful bacteria to other parts of your body. Oral health and microbiome have a direct impact on systemic health and can affect the potential risk of disease or cancer in the rest of your body
What systemic health problems can be linked to oral health?
- Cardiovascular disease: Having poor oral health can cause gum disease which can be linked to certain heart diseases. The harmful bacteria and plaque from inflamed and infected gums can eventually enter and travel through your bloodstream, building up in the arteries in the heart. According to MDPI, oral bacteria and gum inflammation have been linked to heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke. Left untreated, these conditions could have major health complications and could even become fatal.
- Respiratory infections: Lack of oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, often leads to a build-up of bacteria in your mouth. Certain bacteria can be inhaled into the respiratory system from infected teeth and gums. Inhaling these bacteria can be harmful to your lungs over a long period of time and even cause pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
- Birth and pregnancy complications: Poor oral health can lead to gum disease which creates harmful bacteria in the mouth that could trigger an inflammatory response. Severe gum infections like periodontitis can be linked to premature labour/delivery along with low birth weight.
- Diabetic complications: Periodontal disease is caused by poor oral hygiene that results in the inflections and inflammation of the gums and bones that surround and support the teeth. This disease can make it difficult for diabetics to control blood sugar levels, which can worsen diabetes and increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. If left untreated, this can lead to other systemic health problems.
- Dietary changes: Oral infections and dysbiosis can eventually cause tooth loss, which directly impacts a person's eating habits. People with and without dentures who have experienced tooth loss usually alter their diets without even noticing, often avoiding certain nutritious foods due to chewing difficulties in some high-calorie, high-fat foods.
While many people assume that the harm of oral health is isolated, it can be linked to many harmful impacts on other systems within the human body. You can limit your risk of developing these implications that impact your overall health by simply taking care of your oral health.
Tips to protect and maintain your oral health.
- Brush your teeth a minimum of twice a day
- Floss your teeth every day to prevent the build-up
- Visit your dental hygienist for cleaning 2-4 times per year
- Take proper care of your toothbrush - Do not share your toothbrush
- Rinse thoroughly after each use to remove any extra paste or debris
- Store toothbrush upright
- Should be replaced approximately every three to four months
- More helpful toothbrush info
- Additional information and oral health tips from the CDC