Does Oral Hygiene Affect Your Overall Health?

featured image - does oral hygiene affect your overall health

Brushing your teeth, flossing, and annual visits to the dentist are the key to oral health, keeping our teeth and gum healthy. But having good oral hygiene is also important to your overall health and improved quality of life.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines oral health as “a state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychosocial wellbeing.”

Hence, there is a lot to consider when it comes to oral care. In fact, studies have shown the correlation between oral hygiene and health, such as diabetes, heart disease, preterm birth, and oral cancer.

Your Mouth as a Portal of Entry for Diseases

Oral problems can be a telltale sign of other diseases, as bacterial inflammation can be initially formed in your mouth that may lead to further health complications. We all know that not keeping our teeth and gums clean regularly will lead to a build-up of plaque along the gum line, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to accumulate in spaces between your teeth and gums.

Known as gingivitis, this form of gum disease can lead to periodontitis – a more severe infection caused by over 500 bacterial species found in plaque below the gum line – if left untreated, leading to swollen gums, bleeding, damaged tissues, and even tooth loss. Studies have shown that those with severe periodontal disease are four times more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those without, hence solidifying the link between periodontal disease and other illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Research has also uncovered that people with gum disease were twice as likely as others to die from a heart attack and three times as likely to have a stroke.

Periodontitis, inflammation of the gums, detailed illustration

Usually, bacteria from your mouth does not enter the bloodstream. However, if you continue to aggravate the affected area, you will provide an entry point for the bacteria, which may lead to more inflammation in other parts of your body especially when you have an existing disease or are pregnant.

Oral Hygiene and Diabetes

An Asian woman brushing her teeth while looking in the mirror.

Source: National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Those with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease. This is due to the change in blood vessels that subsequently affects blood flow and weakens gums, making them more vulnerable to infections. Diabetes also increases blood sugar levels, encouraging bacterial growth in the mouth if not well-managed.

With regular visits to the dentist and oral care, dentists have a 73 per cent chance of identifying people with diabetes via the teeth count and examination of the spaces between their gums and teeth so the role of medical professionals in revealing gum disease in these patients before the situation worsens is crucial.

Oral Hygiene and Heart Disease

Heart attack and stroke are two common links to periodontal disease, with a 19 per cent chance. Inflammation is the key factor and cause, leading to a possibility of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Endocarditis, a heart condition that involves inflammation of the heart valve lining is commonly caused by bacteria, which could happen when oral bacteria from poor teeth and oral care enters the bloodstream. Even then, there is no strong correlation between oral health and heart disease as there are many other factors involved, including smoking, age, and diabetes.

Oral Hygiene and Pregnancy

oral hygiene and pregnant woman

Source: Anthony Tran on Unsplash

While not completely proven, the link between periodontal disease and preterm birth is possible as the infections from gum disease could affect the health of an unborn child. Research showed that as many as 18 per cent of preterm births in the United States are attributed to oral infections. It is said that oral bacteria could reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream and thus, affect the baby.

Preterm babies usually require extra care as they are at a higher risk of health problems in the first few weeks of their lives and could be diagnosed with delayed motor skills or learning disabilities in the future. Fortunately, treatment of periodontal disease is possible in the second trimester of a woman’s pregnancy and is generally safe.

What Your Mouth Reveals About Your Health

Doctor Testing Biological Specimen

There is so much to know from your teeth hygiene and oral health and a swab of saliva can tell a lot about your body. For instance, you can test the stress response in newborns by testing the cortisol levels in saliva.

Saliva testing can also measure toxins, hormones, and antibodies to reveal HIV infections and other ailments, and can be used in addition to blood testing as a way to diagnose diseases. Not only is it a form of early detection, but saliva is also the main defence system against disease-causing bacterias and viruses. It contains antibodies and proteins “histatins” that has the capabilities of fighting off colds, fungal infections, and inhibiting the growth of certain pathogens.

How to Maintain Your Oral Hygiene

oral hygiene and nutrition

Although your saliva seems to be a great defence powerhouse, it cannot be fully relied upon to fight all illnesses and diseases as there are over 500 species of bacteria living in your mouth alone. Plus, given the close link between periodontal disease and one’s well being, prevention is an important part of maintaining oral hygiene. The three basic must-haves in every teeth and oral care routine are brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing once daily, and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Nutrition is also an important factor in keeping your pearly whites and gums healthy. Incorporating healthy food and limiting those with added sugar is a surefire path to good oral health. Most importantly, regular cleanings at your local dentist are the only way to properly remove tartar, which is responsible for trapping plaque along the gum line and inviting bacterial inflammation.

Make Your Oral Hygiene a Priority

Always opt for prevention by following the steps above as it will guarantee less harm in the future. At AllSmiles Dental Care, we are all about delivering a stellar dental experience to our patients. From annual checkups to complex treatments, we have got you covered with our comprehensive range of dental services to meet your needs. Contact us today to make an appointment!