Oral health, often referred to as “a window to your overall health,” is essential for people of all ages, but it becomes increasingly important as you grow older. However, the responsibility to maintain good oral health does not rest merely on your shoulders. Dental professionals play a huge part in the upkeep of your oral health. You and your dentist have to work together to make sure you don’t fall prey to any serious dental concerns because they can sometimes lead to other medical complications. However, with regular visits to the dentist on top of a daily oral hygiene routine, you should be able to keep most dental problems at bay.
If you’re someone who is new to the world of oral health or someone who is not convinced about it, here are some facts to get you on the path to starting and maintaining good oral hygiene.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health
Like several other parts of our bodies, our mouths house bacteria, most of which are harmless but some of which are disease-causing. However, despite the many natural defenses our bodies have, oral hygiene remains ever important. In fact, this can be seen as the first point of entry for harmful bacteria because your mouth leads directly to your respiratory and digestive tracts. Daily brushing and flossing can keep such harmful bacteria under control, but if a healthy oral routine is not maintained, it can lead to problems like tooth decay, infections, and gum disease.
For people who are on certain types of medication, oral hygiene and health become all the more essential because some medicines reduce saliva production in your mouth. Saliva is responsible for washing away food bits as well as neutralizing the bacteria-produced acids in your mouth, helping prevent diseases and infections. If your production of saliva is decreased, the chances that your teeth will suffer some kind of damage will increase, which means you have more reason to take care of your teeth and your overall oral health. This shows how having poor oral health affects other areas of your life too.
Some diseases like diabetes and HIV also lower the body’s resistance to infection, which means patients of such diseases need to be extra careful because their oral health is more prone to worsening.
Some Conditions That Are Associated with Oral Health
Poor upkeep of your dental health can also contribute to some unpleasant conditions, like endocarditis, for example. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, and it usually happens when bacteria or germs from the mouth or some other body part enter the bloodstream and get deposited in the heart. Another heart disease that is linked with poor oral health is cardiovascular disease. In fact, clogged arteries and strokes are said to occur as a result of infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria.
Oral bacteria that are harmful can even cause complications for pregnant women. Periodontitis, which is a severe gum infection that often leads to tooth loss, can cause premature birth. The baby might even weigh less than the healthy birth weight. This may further lead to complications regarding the newborn’s health, which can be quite serious. Certain bacteria in your mouth can even cause pneumonia upon entering the respiratory tract, which proves just how important oral health is and how improper care can have almost devastating effects.
Now that we’ve talked about the conditions that are caused by poor dental hygiene, it’s only appropriate to discuss conditions that can cause or worsen dental problems.
The reason diabetes affects your oral health so badly is that your body’s defenses are at an all-time low. Because there is less resistance to infection, your chances of getting gum disease to grow higher. This is why you will often see diabetic people suffering from gum disease. It’s one of the most common dental problems they suffer from.
HIV/AIDS can worsen already existing oral problems and cause new ones like painful mucosal lesions, which are like ulcers in the oral cavity. Another condition that can worsen oral health is osteoporosis, which is a bone-weakening disease that can cause both bone loss and tooth loss. The progression of Alzheimer’s also worsens oral health in most people because they are unable to look after their oral hygiene.
There are some other conditions that are also linked to oral health, which include eating disorders and even some cancers. It’s important to share your medication details with your dentist each time you visit them so they can help you contain any damage the medication might be causing.
Benefits of Good Oral Health
One of the greatest benefits of maintaining good oral health is getting to keep your teeth for life, or at least for the larger part of your life. Since tooth loss has been linked to how long we live, not losing your teeth for a longer period of time could potentially make you live longer as well.
There is a reduced risk of disease, whether that’s gum disease or some other condition that is caused by problems beginning in the oral cavity, like heart diseases. Believe it or not, even your chances of getting cancer and dementia are greatly reduced by keeping good care of your oral health. Research has shown that gum disease increases your chances of developing cancer by 14%, which means that by simply cleaning your teeth and making regular visits to the dentist to ensure everything’s in order will greatly reduce your chances of having cancer.
Another extremely important benefit of good oral health is that pregnant women will deliver healthy babies. As we mentioned previously, gum diseases can cause premature births; this is because certain chemicals that induce labor are present in women who suffer from gum disease. For women who want to become mothers, this benefit holds extra weight because of their child’s health, or even life may depend on its mother’s oral health.
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