The Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health

While your oral health may only seem linked to your physical appearance, it actually plays a big part in your overall general health. Keeping your mouth happy and your teeth shining may seem important when you’re biting into an apple or noshing on a slice of pizza, but your dental health also directly affects your physical wellbeing.

Good dental hygiene doesn’t just ensure your teeth are straight and white so you can flash an attractive smile. Adopting these healthy habits also decreases the likelihood that you’ll experience certain chronic illnesses and conditions. 

Although teeth are an important component in overall health, adults are likely to ignore dental treatment because they don’t want to pay for dentist visits, they don’t have the time, or they don’t see the importance of visiting a dentist. However, learning about the link between oral hygiene and health may allow you to see how crucial regular dentist visits can be. Connecting dental health to physical wellbeing may also motivate you to adopt daily habits that reduce your chance of developing long-term medical conditions.

What Conditions Are Linked to Dental Health?

When you fail to practice good hygiene habits related to your teeth, such as regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits, your entire body may suffer. If left untreated, advanced periodontal disease, an inflammation in the gums, can bring on severe consequences, including tooth loss. When your mouth is in pain, it inhibits your ability to eat and provide your body with the nutrition it needs

Poor dental health can also lead to sleep apnea. This is a condition that negatively impacts your ability to develop healthy and safe sleeping patterns.

Your dental health is also linked to other medical conditions, including the following:

  • Pneumonia: Each year, almost 50,000 Americans die from pneumonia, a bacterial lung infection. When bacteria collect in your mouth and you breathe, it can be pulled into your lungs. This bacteria irritates the lungs and causes pneumonia.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Stroke, clogged arteries, and heart disease may be directly linked to oral health. Researchers found that the bacteria present in a mouth with gum disease may travel all the way to your blood vessels. This inflammation can cause blood clots, heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular episodes.
  • Endocarditis: When bacteria or germs are present in your body, more specifically your mouth, these particles may also contaminate your bloodstream and latch onto sensitive areas in your heart. Endocarditis occurs when the inner lining of your heart chamber or valves are infected by this bacteria.
  • Complications with pregnancy and birth: When you suffer from periodontal disease, you not only need to worry about tooth loss but also pregnancy and birth complications. This gum disease has been linked to pregnancy complications, such as higher rates of gestational diabetes and immunological changes. It may also be a risk factor for premature or low-weight birth.

What Conditions Affect Dental Health?

There are certain health conditions that may have an impact on your oral health. These conditions include:

  • Diabetes: When you have diabetes, your body’s ability to fight infection is generally lower. Bacteria can build up in the gums more easily, leading to frequent bouts of gum disease.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients generally experience a decline in oral health, including the loss of teeth and a buildup of plaque.
  • Osteoporosis: Patients diagnosed with osteoporosis experience a loss in bone density and mass. Since teeth are also made from bones, tooth loss and breakage is more common for those with this disease. Additionally, some of the medications used to treat osteoporosis may damage jawbones.
  • HIV and AIDS: Patients with HIV and AIDS may experience a variety of symptoms related to their condition. One of these symptoms is mucosal lesions inside the mouth, which are painful open sores that negatively impact oral health.

Eating disorders may also affect oral health since the acid in stomach bile can wear down tooth enamel. Certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and medications that cause dry mouth or other oral effects may also have an impact on dental health.

Who Needs to Protect Their Oral Health?

Since oral health is so closely related to overall health, everyone should be diligent about maintaining good oral health habits. Improving and maintaining your dental health is an important way to prevent experiencing or aggravating certain medical conditions.

Those who are at high risk for medical complications, or who have chronic health conditions that may negatively affect their oral health, should improve their dental regimen. Consistently seeing a dentist and regular brushing and flossing ensures these patients are doing everything they can to maintain proper oral hygiene and prevent bacteria and plaque buildup.

Young adults are most likely to report having pain associated with their mouth and teeth. They may not be proactive about their dental health or pursuing treatment for this pain because they weren’t taught about oral health at a young age. 

It’s important to teach children about the importance of oral care and begin a strict dental health routine as early as possible. By discussing the link between oral care and health with your children at a young age, you’ll engrain the importance of taking care of their teeth through adulthood.

Tips to Improve Oral Health

No matter your age, you can always take the time to improve your oral health and reap the benefits of regular dental care. To ensure you’re doing everything you can to take care of your teeth properly, it’s important to:

  • Brush your teeth twice per day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Visit a dentist or orthodontist regularly, especially if you’re experiencing pain or other problems.
  • Floss at least once per day.
  • Be proactive about dental procedures when you need them, such as getting braces or getting your wisdom teeth taken out.

Your dental health isn’t just related to how white or straight your teeth appear to be. Oral health directly affects the health of your body and vice versa. 

Since it’s so closely linked to your health and your likelihood of developing chronic or serious medical conditions, oral health should be taken seriously. By ensuring you’re following a thorough brushing and flossing schedule and seeing your dentist regularly and any time you have a problem, you can take control of your oral health and your wellbeing.