The importance of our oral health does not end with having that nice-looking smile – it is also essential to our general health and well-being.
A healthy mouth not only allows for good nutrition of the physical body, but it also enhances self-esteem and overall well-being.
Furthermore, experts have known for quite some time that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and may, therefore, give signals about any underlying disorder that the body is experiencing.
The mouth like most areas of the body contains a lot of bacteria, most which are harmless. Under normal circumstances, our body’s immune defenses coupled with good oral hygiene can keep these bacteria under control.
However, if there’s lack of proper oral hygiene, a number of bacteria grow into amounts that the body can no longer handle, leading to oral infections. The most common of these are tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Recognizing that oral health infections can have adverse effects on general health is essential for your dentist to devise an appropriate oral health care program.
Listed below are the systemic conditions that can affect or be affected by oral health in one way or another.
Diabetics are more prone to oral infections than any other patients with systemic diseases. Periodontal disease is so among diabetics that it is often referred to as the sixth complication of the disease. It pertains to the inflammation of structures that support the teeth, which include the gums, attachment apparatus, and bone. The severity of inflammation is often indicative of how well the diabetes is under control.
Diabetes mellitus and periodontal disease is actually a two-way street, as severe forms of periodontal disease can also affect the patient’s blood sugar levels.
Treating diabetes helps in the resolution of periodontal disease in the same manner that treating periodontal disease leads to better control of blood sugar levels. Other oral diseases associated with diabetes include dry mouth and tooth decay. Dry mouth can also increase one’s risk of developing periodontal disease.
It has also been suggested that periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, most especially bacterial endocarditis. The association between the two is mainly brought about by periodontal inflammation which is triggered when the oral bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach themselves to the blood vessels that supply the heart. In endocarditis, the bacteria go as far as into the inner lining of the heart.
Periodontal disease can also cause any existing heart conditions to worsen. This necessitates the use of prophylactic antibiotics in a patient who wishes to undergo dental treatment – especially procedures where bleeding is anticipated (i.e. extractions, implant surgery, etc). Your dentist and cardiologist will determine if you need prophylactic antibiotics.
Due to their effect on the blood vessels, there also exists a relationship between oral infections and cerebrovascular accident – a.k.a. stroke. This relationship is based on several studies which evaluated oral infection as a possible risk factor for the disease. The results revealed that most patients who have had a stroke were more likely to have an existing oral infection compared to the healthy participants.
Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, is often associated with bone loss in periodontal disease. The connection is in the drugs used to treat the condition, which can cause some damage to the jawbone. As the density of the jawbone continues to decrease, the teeth will no longer have that solid foundation to support them. This ultimately leads to tooth loss.
According to research, the bacteria found in the oral cavity may be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases, the most common of which is pneumonia. Such relationship is frequently observed in patients with periodontal disease.
Arguably the most dreadful of them all is the association between oral diseases and cancer. Studies say that individuals – men, most especially – who suffer from the periodontal disease are more likely to develop kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers compared to those with good periodontal health.
Now, aren’t these some very good reasons for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy from now on? If you suffer from any of these conditions, better consult your dentist now for specific instructions on how to maintain your oral health.