Neglecting your teeth and gums isn’t just bad for your breath and your appearance. It can also lead to dire consequences for your overall health and well-being. Your oral health can reveal a lot about the health of the rest of your body, and taking care to protect your teeth and gums is key for long-term wellness.
Now that research has linked gum disease to several other medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and even Alzheimer’s and cancer, it seems that now, more than ever, we need to prioritize our oral health as a safeguard against other chronic and life-threatening health conditions.
What is Gum Disease?
Periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease, is an infection caused by bacteria in the gums that gradually damages soft tissue and bone in the mouth. Without proper intervention, this condition can lead to severe infection, loss of teeth, and even loss of bone structure in the jaw.
How is Oral Health Related to Other Chronic Conditions?
Just like other areas of your body, your mouth is literally teeming with bacteria. When you realize that your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, it becomes even more important to safeguard against infection in the mouth and prevent bacteria from spreading to other areas of the body. Infection and inflammation caused by periodontal disease have links to several chronic diseases, most of which are preventable if oral health is improved and kept in check.
What Conditions Are Linked to Declining Oral Health?
Declining oral health can contribute to the development of the following conditions:
Advanced periodontal disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where excess plaque and food particles can take up residence. This buildup of toxic material can cause inflammation in the mouth and body, which then leads to toxic buildup in the blood that can directly affect how the body processes glucose and releases insulin. If the condition persists for too long, the body will become unable to regulate the production of insulin or process glucose altogether, ultimately leading to diabetes.
An infection of the inner lining of the heart occurs when bacteria that is present in the bloodstream attaches itself to the lining, causing inflammation that affects the heart’s ability to efficiently circulate blood throughout the body.
Excess bacteria from the mouth can be pulled into the lungs, causing asthmatic conditions and eventually, pneumonia.
4. Pregnancy and birth complications
For moms-to-be, it is even more essential to keep the gums and teeth in good shape, because mom’s health directly affects the baby’s health. Periodontitis in pregnant women has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, and it may cause other complications with the baby’s health postpartum as well.
5. Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is an alarming by-product of gum disease. When inflamed gums release bacteria into the bloodstream, it causes chemical reactions in the arteries that can result in blockages, heart attack, and stroke.
Other conditions that may be linked to poor oral health include the development of Alzheimer’s, eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and autoimmune diseases.
Reclaiming Good Oral Health
Now that we know just how significantly poor oral health can affect the rest of the body, it’s essential that we learn to manage our oral health in order to prevent the onset of catastrophic illnesses and disease. To protect your oral health, here’s what you should do:
1. Brush twice daily
Brushing regularly is essential for good oral health. Not only does it reduce plaque formation, but it also removes food and drink debris that can cause bacteria to form and wreak havoc on the teeth. Brush with a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste containing fluoride for at least 2 minutes, twice daily, for best results.
Flossing goes where no toothbrush can. It works in and around the teeth and along the gum line to remove harmful bacteria and debris in those nooks and crannies that are hard to reach. To floss properly, wind a section of floss around each finger, then gently guide the floss in between the teeth, moving it in a back and forth motion along the gum line. Work your way around the mouth, adjusting the floss as you go so that you have clean sections for different areas. Floss at least once daily for the best results.
3. Use mouth rinse or mouthwash
Studies have shown that the use of mouthwash as part of a comprehensive oral health care regimen reduces plaque and tartar buildup by as much as 40 percent. In addition, the fluoride used in these rinses adds an extra layer of protection against the formation of cavities and decay.
4. Eat clean
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, quality protein, and fresh produce is essential for maintaining good oral health. Do what you can to eliminate overly sugary, starchy, and acidic foods that can cause damage to your teeth.
5. Visit your dentist
Visiting your dentist at least twice a year is another proactive measure you can take against tooth decay and gum disease. Your dentist will be able to effectively remove stubborn tartar and plaque from your teeth using a series of specialized tools, diagnose any new problems, and treat any existing oral health issues that you may have. If gum disease is diagnosed at your visit, your dentist may be able to use cutting-edge technologies such as LANAP, or Laser Periodontal Therapy, to help restore the condition of your bones, teeth, and gums.
Safeguarding your health starts with your mouth. By practicing proactive oral health care techniques, seeing your dentist regularly, and working to resolve existing oral health issues, you’ll be on the road to total health and wellness in no time.If you’re looking for a skilled periodontist in the Miami area, then consider making an appointment with periodontal specialist Dr. John Paul Gallardo for a full oral health evaluation. To schedule an appointment, call 305-547-8687 today.