Many of us think of being in good health as our bodies functioning as they should–our body functions are working, we are disease-free, and are able to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well. We seek treatment from a doctor when one of those things is not operating correctly. But many of us also do not consider our overall oral hygiene as being part of this picture of good health. What’s going on in our mouths can affect other parts of our body and cause other diseases, some of them dangerous. Our mouth naturally carries a lot of bacteria, but majority of the time they are harmless. But the way to maintain this equilibrium in the mouth is through good oral hygiene– regular brushing, flossing, and visits to the dentist. Poor dental hygiene can cause cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and more. But prolonged bad dental hygiene can cause oral infections that can impact other parts of your body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, oral bacteria and the inflammation caused by severe and long-lasting gum disease can contribute to these diseases:
- Endocarditis – This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, which is called the endocardium. Endocarditis happens when bacteria from another part of the body, like your gums or mouth, travel through your bloodstream and concentrate within the inner lining of the heart.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes have less immune system defenses, so infections of all kinds can start quickly, including the mouth. Studies have shown that people with diabetes are more prone to gum disease. In turn, gum disease results in difficulty controlling blood sugar levels, which can make diabetes more difficult to manage.
- Heart disease – Research has shown that oral infections and inflammation can lead to heart conditions such as clogged arteries and even strokes.
- Low birth weight – A 2010 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine found that gum disease is an independent risk factor for low birth weights in newborn babies. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that approximately 18 percent of low birth weight babies born in the United States annually may be caused by oral infections.
- Sinus infection – Though sinus infections on their own can also cause tooth pain, the inverse is true as well. Inflammation and infection in the upper teeth left untreated can lead to an abscess, or a pocket of pus. This bacteria can easily travel up into the sinus cavities and cause a sinus infection.
- Sepsis – This another condition that can arise because of a tooth abscess. The pocket of pus can come about because of an untreated cavity or other mouth injury. Treating a tooth abscess right away is important as if it is left untreated for a long period of time, the bacteria seep into the bloodstream and cause sepsis, or blood poisoning. This can very quickly lead to organ failure and death.
In other words, oral health means much more than just clean, white teeth. The mouth can reveal symptoms of dietary deficiencies along with other chronic diseases such as the ones listed above, as well as bacterial infections, immune system disorders, and even some cancers.
Oral health and overall health should not be considered separate entities. Dental hygiene is a crucial part of overall health and should be cared for just as diligently as the rest of the body. Taking proper preventative oral health measures, such as going to the dentist regularly, is important in taking care of your mouth and your body. If you’re located in the west Pensacola, Perdido or Foley area, call us today to schedule a free dental consultation: (850) 542-4428.