A stellar smile means more than having straight teeth and glistening pearly whites. There is a connection between the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums and your overall wellbeing, and many oral conditions can offer clues about other systemic problems. This is because your mouth has tons of bacteria, although this is usually kept in check with the body’s immune system and good oral hygiene. Without regular brushing and flossing, though, the mostly harmless bacteria can continue to develop into destructive bacteria, and you can develop oral infections, including gingivitis or tooth decay. Gingivitis is only reversible in the earliest stages and left unchecked, it eventually progresses to severe gum disease called periodontitis, in which the teeth can fall out as the gum pockets continue to grow and the tooth gradually loosen.
Oral health conditions may contribute to these systemic conditions:
- Heart disease: Certain research suggests how cardiovascular conditions, like clogged arteries or stroke, could be linked to gum disease and infections caused by oral bacteria.
- Pregnancy complications: Severe gum disease (periodontitis) is linked to premature birth and low birth weight in pregnant women.
- Pneumonia: Bacteria from the mouth may be pulled into the lungs, leading to respiratory diseases like pneumonia.
Conditions Affecting Your Oral Health
On the flipside, your oral health may be aggravated by certain health conditions, particularly if your body is immunocompromised. If you have these health conditions, it’s very important to consult with your dentist to formulate an oral hygiene regimen to protect yourself as much as you possibly can.
These systemic conditions might affect your oral health:
- Diabetes: All types of diabetes reduce the body’s resistance to infection, putting your gums at risk, as well. Likewise, gum disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels.
- HIV/AIDS: Oral health conditions, including mucosal lesions, are more common in those with a compromised immune system, such as in those with HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis: Because this disease weakens the bones, it can cause bone loss in the jaw and lead to tooth loss. Also, the drugs used to treat the disease can damage the jawbone.
- Dementia: Oral health worsens as the Alzheimer’s disease progresses, and without a diligent caretaker, those with dementia may not be able to practice oral hygiene on their own.
Protecting Your Oral Health
Whether you have an oral health condition or a systemic problem that can impact your mouth, you can protect yourself from further damage by practicing regular brushing, flossing, and having regular dental checkups and cleanings. Likewise, it’s wise to eat a healthy, low-sugar diet and avoid tobacco use. Your dentist can advise you of how you specifically can improve your oral health, but it may also include using a water pick, an electric toothbrush, or mouthwash to remove leftover food particles. You should also ensure your toothbrush and other oral hygiene supplies are in good condition, and replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months, or sooner if the bristles are worn down.
Contact us at Austell Dental Associates by calling (770) 467-3888 to schedule your initial dental checkup and cleaning.