Taking good care of your teeth, gums and mouth are essential for your dental health. How dental health affects overall health can help to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Many people ask the question: is there a connection to oral health and whole-body health. The case for good oral health keeps getting stronger as researchers are discovering new reasons to ensure proper dental health. The health of your mouth has plenty to do with your overall health. A look inside a swab of saliva can tell volumes about what’s going on inside your body.
How Dental Health Affects Overall Health
- Oral Signs and Symptoms
Your mouth can reveal what’s going on inside your body. It often serves as a helpful way to detect the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease – a disease that affects your entire body and not just it’s parts. According to various research findings, most systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.
- Saliva is a Helpful Diagnostic Tool
Your physician can collect and test saliva for diagnostic purposes. For instance, cortisol levels in saliva can be used to test for stress responses in newborn babies and certain cancer markers can be detected in saliva. Routine saliva testing can also measure environmental toxins, illegal drugs, antibodies and hormones indicating HIV infection or hepatitis, among other things.
- Protection Against Harmful Invaders
Saliva is one of your body’s main defenses against disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. it contains proteins that inhibit the growth of naturally occurring fungus and antibodies that attack viruses such as HIV and the common cold. Saliva also helps to protect you against disease-causing bacteria and disrupts viral bacterial enzyme systems.
- Dental Plaque
Saliva can help to protect you against some invaders, but it can’t always do the job. More than 500 species of bacteria thrive in your mouth constantly forming a sticky, colorless film called dental plaque that can cling to your teeth and cause health problems.
- Your Mouth as a Source of Infection
Failing to brush and floss your teeth regularly can lead to the buildup of plaque along your gum line, which creates a conducive environment for bacteria to accumulate in the space between your teeth and gums. This gum infection is referred to as gingivitis and can lead to a more serious infection called periodontitis.
Oral bacteria wouldn’t normally get into your bloodstream. However, routine flossing and brushing, if you have gum disease or invasive dental procedures, can provide an entry point for microbes. Antibiotics that mess up the balance of bacteria in your mouth and treatments and medications that reduce the flow of saliva can also lower your mouth’s normal defense mechanisms, allowing bacteria to get into your bloodstream. You should also be wary when your wisdom teeth begin to grow.
How dental health affects overall health is something to consider. Research suggests that there may be an association between oral infections and preterm birth, cardiovascular disease and poorly controlled diabetes. So, is there a connection to oral health and whole-body health? The short answer is yes. As such, practicing good oral hygiene is like making an investment in your overall health.