Did you know that your mouth is a gateway to your body? The state of your oral health can offer clues about whole-body health and reveal symptoms of various illnesses.
Filled with countless bacteria, your mouth acts as the entry point to your digestive and respiratory systems. Without a proper oral health regimen to keep bacteria under control, microorganisms from the mouth can cause infection in other areas of the body, especially if the immune system is compromised by medication or disease.
Moreover, many illnesses can negatively impact oral health by reducing saliva flow and altering the balance of the mouth’s microorganisms. This can lead to oral infections such as periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Health conditions and systemic diseases that can be caused or complicated by poor oral hygiene include:
- Diabetes — Gum disease is more frequent and severe among individuals with diabetes since higher glucose levels in the mouth can encourage bacterial growth. The illness can also impair blood flow to the gums, which makes them more susceptible to infections.
- Respiratory conditions — Certain bacteria from tooth plaque can be pulled into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other serious respiratory diseases.
- Heart disease — Some research suggests that cardiovascular disease, strokes and clogged arteries might be linked to infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria.
- Pregnancy — Pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering preterm or low birth weight infants.
Simple habits such as brushing and flossing your teeth daily, as well as scheduling regular cleanings by your dentist, can optimize a healthy mouth-body connection. To learn more ways your oral hygiene and overall well-being are linked, see the accompanying guide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Tuttle is Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a multi-specialty group dental practice in Chicago’s western suburbs. With more than 30 doctors and 50 years of practice experience, Grove Dental’s offices stay on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.