Reasons why Oral health is important to overall healthMarch 10, 2020 5:20 am
April 7th is World Health Day, a day when the World Health Organisation promotes the message of ‘healthcare for all’. At this time, it makes sense to check in with your own wellbeing, not least of all your dental health. The condition of your teeth, gums and mouth can have a bigimpact on the health of the rest of your body.
- Bacteria and health
It’s often the case that poor health in the mouth reflects poor health elsewhere. Your mouth has an array of good and bad bacteria, and when problems occur, it means that there’s an imbalance somewhere in the body. For example, mouth ulcers, red and irritated gums, or frequent gum bleeding can mean you have a vitamin deficiency or might be a sign of something more serious. If you notice you begin suffering from things like swellings in the mouth, don’t ignore them or dismiss them as minor annoyances – visit your dentist. They will be able to advise on change in diet, dental routine or further investigations.
- Gum disease
Sometimes the balance of good and bad bacteria in the mouth can get disturbed. If you fail to brush your teeth or floss often enough, bad bacteria can get a chance to gain hold. It starts when you eat food that feeds bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria love sugar, so if you are eating lots of sweet or junk foods – they’re happy! Bad bacteria multiply and start to deposit plaque on teeth, and produce acid also. The acid attacks teeth and can irritate gums. At this point gum disease can become a factor. If action isn’t taken to control the bacteria, they accumulate on teeth and the gumline. This irritates gums, making them red and swollen. This is the early stages of gum disease, known as gingivitis. If left untreated, this can progress so that gums start to pull away from teeth, and eventually you could actually lose your teeth.
- Links with heart conditions
Sometimes problems in the mouth can cause or worsen problems elsewhere in the body. The bacteria that accumulate from gum disease are an example of this – believe it or not, gum disease has been linked to heart disease. Research has shown that those suffering from gum disease are more likely to be suffering from heart problems – and vice versa. While it’s not proven, it’s thought that bacteria accumulating in the mouth are transferred elsewhere in the body via the blood stream.
- Other diseases
The effect isn’t limited to just heart problems. Another recent study showed that those suffering from gum disease were 40% more likely to be suffering from another chronic condition,such as diabetes or even cancer. For diabetes, it’s thought that inflammation in the mouth makes the body less able to control its blood sugar levels. The link with cancer is less clear, but the effect of bacteria may again be a contributing factor. Another condition where bacteria from gum disease can be a factor is pregnancy. Sadly, low birth weights have been shown to have a link with gum disease. And, pregnant women are unfortunately more likely to develop gum disease in the first place. This is because fluctuating hormone levels can affect blood flow, making gums more vulnerable to attack by bacteria.
- Staying healthy
While all this can sound alarming, the important message is – keep your teeth and mouth healthy! And, it’s never been easier to do this. A good dental routine is the best way to fight those troublesome bacteria. First, brush your teeth for a full two minutes twice a day. This will help make sure any bad bacteria are kept carefully in check, and it will remove any food detritus that could encourage problems to develop. Floss, and visit your dentist regularly every six months. This is especially important if you do suffer from another medical condition.
- A good diet
The next step is to take a good look at your diet. Make sure you get the vitamins and minerals that will help your mouth fight off infection. Avoid sugar – so that means cutting out biscuits, cakes and chocolate – and eat lots of health-giving grains, pulses and fresh fruit and vegetables. Having a varied and healthy diet will ensure the ‘bad’ bacteria has a minimal food supply, and will give your body the tools it needs to naturally fight them off as well. Not only that – but you’ll feel great! Keep your mouth happy, and keep the rest of your body healthy as well.
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