Did you know that oral health problems have a significant impact on many Americans? It may not sound like a big deal, but there is overwhelming evidence about how dental health is related to overall health.
In Texas, more than half of adolescents have cavities and that number rises with age. Even worse, over 13% of Texas adults have no natural teeth. Aside from the negative effects on all of those smiles, poor oral health is linked to overall health.
Fortunately, many of the underlying oral health issues are treatable or completely preventable. Let’s talk about how dental health affects overall health, why it matters, and how you can stay healthy!
Is There a Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health?
Your mouth is teeming with bacteria. While most of it won’t hurt you, if the balance of good and bad bacteria is upset it leads to trouble. Throw in some food particles and poor oral care, and you have a recipe for dental problems, like tooth decay and gum disease.
To complicate things, some medications and medical conditions can upset the delicate balance in your mouth. For example, certain medications and autoimmune conditions, like Sjogren’s Syndrome can impact saliva production. Since you need saliva to help wash away food and acid, if your body can’t produce enough, it leaves your teeth susceptible to damage.
While it’s not always possible to switch medications or completely manage some of these conditions, you can do something about your oral health. Given the link between dental health and overall health, maintaining good oral hygiene could help more than you realize.
How Does Dental Health Affect Overall Health?
So, what is the relationship between oral health and general health? Some of it comes down to basic anatomy. Your mouth serves as a gateway to your respiratory and digestive systems, but it’s also closely connected to your circulatory and nervous systems.
Is it that surprising that when things go haywire in your mouth they can affect the rest of your body?
What Kind of Health Problems Can Bad Teeth Cause?
Medical and dental professionals have debated the connection between mouth health and overall health. Several studies have found that oral health is related to overall health, but determining causation has proven more challenging.
That said, there are several conditions linked to oral health concerns, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Pregnancy and birth complications
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Does Poor Oral Hygiene Cause Heart Disease?
Now that we know how oral hygiene affects overall health, it’s easy to look for causation in terms of related conditions. There is a definitive connection between poor oral health and heart disease, but there’s not enough evidence to suggest one causes the other.
Can Gum Disease Cause Other Health Issues?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a preventable condition, but it’s also related to some chronic health problems. Periodontal disease and overall health have been connected by multiple studies over the past several decades.
Again, there are correlations, but not irrefutable causations between gum disease and most other health conditions. However, if you have such poor dental health that you develop an infection, that infection can spread to the bloodstream and impact your heart valves.
Can Dental Health Affect Mental Health?
Aside from how a damaged smile can impact self-confidence, there is a correlation to mental health conditions.
- People with mood disorders can suffer from poor oral health due to self-neglect.
- Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can signal excess anxiety and stress.
- Eating disorders can lead to tooth erosion resulting in gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss.
- Those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may forget to maintain their oral hygiene routines, leading to poor oral health.
Is There a Difference Between Dental Health in Men and Women?
We all know that men and women have unique biologies that impact everything from daily habits to overall health, and oral care is no exception.
- Men are more likely to develop periodontal disease than women, especially if the men smoke. Unfortunately, it also means that men tend to lose more teeth than women.
- Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis and breast cancer that have been linked to poor oral health.
- Many women have poor oral health during pregnancy that has been linked to pre-term birth and low birth rates. Still, only 20% to 30% of pregnant women visit a dentist.
If all of this isn’t frightening enough, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, and it’s linked to poor oral health. It’s safe to say that men and women could benefit from prioritizing their oral care to avoid becoming another gender-specific statistic!
How Does Poor Oral Care Contribute to Poor Health?
Neglecting your teeth and gums leads to a range of dental problems. When people don’t take care of their teeth, they probably neglect other self-care as well.
The combination of poor tooth health and overall health often translates to chronic medical issues. Dealing with chronic health issues can impact their mental and physical well-being, personal relationships, and ability to function in many capacities.
What Are the Signs of Poor Oral Hygiene?
Oral hygiene and overall health don’t just fall apart without warning. There are usually warning signs early on that tell you something is wrong.
- Pain in your teeth or gums
- Inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Bumps or sores on the tongue
- Sores or growths in the mouth
- Persistent bad breath
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible. They can examine your mouth and suggest a course of treatment to resolve the issues.
What are the Benefits of Good Oral Health?
Does oral health affect overall health? Yes, but that means good oral health can have positive results as much as the opposite is true.
How to Protect Your Teeth and Overall Health
Knowing how oral health affects overall health is only half of the battle. Learning what you can do to maintain the health of your mouth is crucial. Establishing and following a good oral care routine can be the best thing you do for yourself.
1. Brush Properly
You should brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
The ideal method for brushing your teeth is to hold your brush at a 45-degree angle and move in a circular motion. Be sure to cover all tooth surfaces, even if it means tilting your toothbrush to reach tough spots.
Don’t forget to take care of your toothbrush! Store the brush upright so that the bristles dry between uses, and get a new one every three months.
2. Floss Daily
Flossing allows you to clean between teeth and get under the gums. Remember, there’s a link between periodontal disease and overall health, and gum disease is preventable!
3. Avoid Tobacco Use
Tobacco use in any form can compromise your dental hygiene and overall health. Aside from increasing your risk for developing certain cancers and heart disease, tobacco use can contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. If you smoke or chew tobacco, it’s in your best interest to stop.
4. Preventative Care Check-Ups
The impact of oral health on general health and wellbeing cannot be understated. Maintaining good oral hygiene is a critical step in maintaining your overall health, and that includes routine check-ups with your dentist.
Daily brushing and flossing can’t remove all of the buildup on your teeth, that’s why it’s recommended that you have professional teeth cleaning every six months. Additionally, at those check-ups, your dentist can look for any signs of issues and catch them early.
If you’re due for a check-up and professional teeth cleaning, Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics can help get you on track with your oral health. Book an appointment at the office nearest you to get started!