Say Ahhh … Oral Health Is Critical to Overall Health
In the first-ever oral health report issued in 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that the “mouth is the center of vital tissues and functions that are critical to total health and well-being across the life span.” In other words, everything in our body is linked, and oral health is critical to overall health.
Good oral health is more than brilliant white teeth and fresh breath – it can mean the difference between life and death. Your mouth is a breeding ground for hundreds of bacteria, which can only be controlled through good oral hygiene habits. But if you neglect your teeth and gums, your entire body may suffer, as well.
Periodontal disease, aka gum disease, is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by the more than 500 bacterial species found in plaque below the gum line. It can cause swollen gums, irritation and bleeding and if gingivitis advances into periodontitis, it can result in receding gums, damaged tissue and bone around the teeth, and even tooth loss.
“Periodontal disease is the sixth most-prevalent chronic condition in the world, affecting 743 million people,” Joan Otomo-Corgel, president of the American Academy of Periodontology and associate clinical professor in the department of periodontics at University of California-Los Angeles, told U.S. News & World Report.
In the United States alone, she said, periodontal disease affects one in every two adults and 2.5 times more people than diabetes. In those with weak immune systems, advanced cases of periodontal disease can allow bacteria to gain access to other parts of the body.
And that’s a real concern because studies suggest that poor oral health might contribute to serious diseases and conditions, including:
• Endocarditis: Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart that typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart.
• Cardiovascular disease: The cardiology community recognizes periodontal disease as a direct risk factor for coronary arterial disease, peripheral arterial disease and stroke. Studies suggest that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke are linked to the inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria. This inflammation can lead to the production of plaques in the arteries, thereby increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
• Low birth weight: Studies have linked periodontitis to premature birth and low birth weight. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says that the reason why as many as 18% of U.S. babies arrive pre-term and low birth weight may be linked to oral infections. Doctors say oral bacteria release toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream and interfere with the growth and development of the fetus.
• Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, leaving the gums vulnerable. Research shows that people who have gum disease struggle to control their blood sugar levels. Worse, periodontal disease and diabetes seem to feed off each other. Poorly controlled diabetes will worsen periodontal disease, and vice versa.
• Kidney disease: A study of a group of people, some of whom had severe periodontal disease, found that those who had severe periodontal disease and normal kidney function went on to develop chronic kidney disease at four times the rate as those without severe periodontal disease after almost five years.
Taking care of your oral health is just as important as caring for your overall health. To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene every day:
• Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
• Floss daily.
• Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
• Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
• Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
• Avoid tobacco use.
• If you grind your teeth at night, reduce your stress and start sleeping with a quality mouth guard to protect your teeth. Try SleepRight’s no-boil dental guards and the ProX Custom dental guard, or find a guard that works best for you at www.sleepright.com/products.
If you think you may have a problem with your oral health, see your dentist as soon as possible. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90% all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms. Mind your mouth – oral health is important!