If the eyes are a window to the soul, then the mouth is a window to physical health. Unfortunately, many of us take our oral health for granted until the time comes to head to the dentist’s office. In reality, keeping our teeth and gums healthy and happy should be high on our list of priorities. In this article, we’ll explain the link between oral and overall health and identify the steps we can take to ensure both.
How oral health affects overall health
Our mouth, just like our body, needs the right combination of bacteria in order to function properly. Without these microorganisms, our human microbiota would be disrupted, which would interfere with the way our bodies work. The problem arises when the amount of bacteria present in the mouth gets out of control. The oral bacteria then enters the bloodstream, leading to a host of oral and overall health concerns.
While poor dental health is usually the cause of oral and general health problems, that’s not always the case. Certain medications such as painkillers and antidepressants can also be the root of your oral health problems. They can cause problems by reducing saliva flow which serves to protect us from the disease-causing microorganisms by attacking them. This, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of our mouth’s natural defense and increases the risk of infection.
Health conditions linked to poor dental health
A person with poor oral hygiene also has a higher risk of developing certain health conditions. For starters, the bacteria and inflammation and infections they cause are linked to cardiovascular diseases (stroke, heart diseases, clogged arteries, etc). Oral bacteria and germs can also contribute to infections such as endocarditis. They can do so by spreading through the bloodstream and reaching certain areas in the heart. If mouth bacteria somehow ends up in the lungs, it can lead to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.
Surprisingly, the bacteria in the mouth can even cause pregnancy issues such as premature and low birth weight if the mother is suffering from periodontitis. Some health conditions may also cause dental and oral diseases. These include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis.
What you can do to prevent oral health issues
One of the best ways to prevent the aforementioned oral health issues and reduce the risk of developing serious health conditions is to take proper care of your oral health. It’s one of the easiest and least expensive ways to maintain a bright and healthy smile well into old age. According to a reputable dentist in South Florida, preventative dental care should combine proper at-home care with regular check-ups. This is the thing that most people just don’t get. Preventative dentistry is so much more than personal at-home care which, unfortunately, often consists of brushing for less than one minute once per day and skipping flossing.
Even with regular flossing and brushing, there are areas of the mouth that your floss or toothbrush just can’t reach. This leads to various types of dental diseases, from gingivitis and cavities to periodontitis and even oral cancer. Sometimes, poor dental habits can result in permanent damage and in some cases may require an oral surgery.
How to practice good oral health every day
Now that we’ve clarified why there’s such a great emphasis on scheduling regular cleaning and going for dental checkups, it’s time that we go over some everyday practices that will ensure good oral health. A good at-home dental care includes several basic steps everyone can and should take on a daily basis. Firstly, make sure you floss once a day, and do so before brushing. Secondly, when brushing your teeth, use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, and brush twice a day. Thirdly, replace the toothbrush every couple of months, sooner if you’ve been sick. Frayed bristles are a sign you need a new one, but generally speaking, you should replace yours every three months.
Remember that what you eat will also determine your oral and overall health, so make sure to eat healthily, limit your intake of sugary drinks, and do your best to avoid tobacco products. Finally, if a dental problem arises, don’t delay contacting your dentist. This can spare you a lot of hassle and help you keep your natural teeth.
A healthy and bright smile is something we all strive for. What we need to understand is that ensuring good oral health is a lifelong commitment, and something we can only achieve if we adopt healthy habits early on. The more we care for our oral health, the more we’ll enhance our overall health.