You already know that brushing your teeth, keeping up with flossing, and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings is essential for keeping your gums and teeth healthy. However, you may not know that good oral hygiene affects your overall health as well.
The Connection Between Oral Hygiene and Your Overall Health
The mouth is full of bacteria, and most of the bacteria are harmless. Good oral hygiene, including regular flossing and brushing, and your body’s natural defenses help to keep bacteria under control within the mouth. However, if you’re not doing a good job with routine oral hygiene, the bacteria in the mouth can reach levels that have the ability to result in oral infections, including gum disease and tooth decay.
Oral bacteria, as well as the inflammation that comes with periodontitis, which is a very severe type of gum disease, may play a role in the development of certain diseases. Some diseases also have the ability to lower your body’s resistance to infection, resulting in more severe oral health problems.
Health Conditions Linked to Oral Hygiene and Health
Your oral hygiene habits and overall oral health have the ability to contribute to a variety of different conditions and diseases, such as:
- Heart Disease – Researchers have found evidence suggesting that strokes, heart disease, and clogged arteries may be linked to infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria. While the reason for this link isn’t clear, studies have shown that individuals who have periodontal disease have a 19% higher risk of developing heart disease.
- Endocarditis – Endocarditis, an infection that takes place in the heart’s inner lining, known as the endocardium, generally takes place when bacteria from another area of the body gets into the bloodstream. It can come from areas of the body like the mouth, attaching to areas of the heart that have been damaged.
- Respiratory Illnesses – Breathing in tooth plaque has the ability to result in bacteria from your mouth getting into the lungs. This may result in pneumonia or other types of respiratory disease. For individuals who already deal with chronic lung conditions, bacteria that gets into the airways can make these conditions worse.
- Pregnancy and Birth – Pregnant women who have periodontal disease have a much greater risk of preterm birth, and it’s thought that the immune response to these infections may be a trigger of preterm labor. Periodontitis has also been linked to low birth rates.
- Diabetes – Gum disease is a complication of diabetes. Diabetes has the ability to change blood vessels, impairing blood flow, which weakens gums, resulting in an increased risk of infection. Since diabetes increases blood glucose levels, failing to manage these levels may result in higher levels of bacterial growth within the mouth.
- Knee Arthritis – One study actually suggested that some cases of knee arthritis, may be linked to oral bacteria. The synovial fluid of the knee joints was tested in individuals with knee arthritis, and several patients had gum bacteria and oral bacteria in their joint fluid. When bacteria from the mouth reaches the joints, it may make arthritis worse.
Protecting Oral and Overall Health with Good Oral Hygiene
Since there is a link between oral hygiene and your overall health, it’s important to protect your health by practicing good oral hygiene daily. Here are some oral hygiene steps you can take each day to keep your oral and overall health protected.
- Make sure you brush your teeth a minimum of twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste (unless otherwise recommended by your dentist)
- Take time to floss at least once a day
- Remember to replace your toothbrush once every 3-4 months, or even sooner if the bristles on your toothbrush become frayed
- Avoid using tobacco products
- Eat a healthy diet, working to limit the snacks you have between meals
- Schedule routine dental cleanings and checkups at least every six months
If you have any oral health problems, make sure you contact your dentist right away. Caring for your oral health and engaging in good oral hygiene daily is an investment, not only in your oral health, but in your overall health as well. If you haven’t had a routine dental cleaning and dental checkup for a while, contact your general dentist provider’s office to schedule your follow up appointment today.