Your oral health is more important than you think it is. How? It is because your oral health gives you signs about the status of your overall health. Consequently, your oral health also affects the rest of your body organs.
The Surprising Link
The mouth is one of the main entry points of the body. It is where food, water, and air enters. Alongside these things, bacteria also comes in. While most bacteria are harmless, some can still cause diseases.
Moreover, some medications, including anti-allergies, pain relievers, anti-anxiety pills, decongestants, and diuretics, decrease saliva production. Saliva is necessary to help break down food and neutralize acids from bacteria in the mouth. The neutralization of acid is crucial to hinder bacterial growth.
Studies also show that severe periodontitis, a type of gum disease, plays an important role in triggering some diseases. Diseases that involve the body’s immune system, such as AIDS and cancer, weakens the body’s ability to resist infection. Poor oral health makes the body’s condition more severe.
Health Problems Linked to Poor Oral Health
Your oral health affects various health problems, such as:
Endocarditis is a severe infection that involves inflammation of the inner lining or valves of the heart. A mouth or gum infection is one of the entry points of bacteria, fungi, or other germs. The harmful organism then travels to the heart through the bloodstream. The most common bacteria that causes endocarditis is Streptococcus sanguis.
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
CAD is a heart condition where the arteries of the heart have a blockage, which can lead to irregular heartbeats and heart attacks. While there is no clear evidence of its relationship with any oral conditions, it is also linked to gum and mouth infections.
The same bacteria that cause endocarditis from an oral problem, which is Streptococcus sanguis, may move to the lungs and cause a serious case of pneumonia.
Alternately, some health problems cause oral problems, including:
Osteoporosis is a bone condition where it weakens due to the non-absorption of calcium. This condition may result in bone loss that includes damage to the periodontal bones, jaw bone, and teeth.
Diabetes is a condition that involves high sugar content in the blood. As a consequence, the body’s ability to ward off infection decreases. It makes the body more susceptible to certain infections, including mouth sores and gum infections.
AIDS is a disease that weakens the immune system, which makes the body vulnerable to different kinds of infection. Oral infections that result in mouth lesions and gum inflammation are common with AIDS.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease causes memory loss and alteration of behavior to affected individuals. Because of it, their ability to perform tasks of daily living decreases. It then leads to different health problems, including poor oral hygiene.
Cancer is a grave medical condition that involves alterations in cellular growth in the body. And unfortunately, its treatments also cause damage to the body. Radiation treatments cause dryness in the mouth, which may cause oral lesions and gum problems. Chemotherapy weakens the immune system then causes infections including those that affect the mouth and gums.
The Amazing Role of Saliva to Understand Your Overall Health
The saliva is one of the body’s primary tools to protect itself against harmful organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It has antibodies that inhibit bacterial growth and metabolism. It also eliminates viruses like a simple cold virus to HIV.
The histatins in saliva are proteins that prevent the fungal growth of Candida albicans, a fungus that is common in the body. When the body’s immune system weakens from infections and other diseases, the growth may not be controlled and cause a fungal infection known as oral thrush.
Saliva can be a medium to test different medical conditions and to understand a person’s overall health status. A routine saliva test may be done to check the presence of illegal drugs and toxins in the body. Hormonal changes and antibody presence for hepatitis and HIV infection also use saliva as a test medium.
Because of this, instant saliva test kits are now available in the market to detect the presence of HIV-specific antibodies. If the self-test saliva kits prove to be useful in diagnosing other health conditions, it may replace invasive tests for chronic conditions like diabetes, liver problems, Parkinson’s disease, and other infectious conditions.
At the moment, studies proved that saliva can indicate high or low cortisol levels. It can also test stress responses in newborn infants. Bone-specific protein fragments are also present and can be detected through saliva testing, which can help in the early detection of osteoporosis in men and women. The saliva also carries specific cancer markers. Nevertheless, take note that all of these tests, however, are still through laboratory testing.
Protect Your Health By Protecting Your Smile
The question now is what can you do to protect your oral health?
The answer is simple. You must create good oral hygiene habits that you can do daily.
How? Here are some tips for a perfect smile.
- Brush your teeth. Do it at least twice a day for about two minutes. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss daily to eliminate the plaque and leftover food in between your teeth, especially those that cannot be removed by brushing.
- Gargle with mouthwash after brushing and flossing to wash away small food particles.
- Eat a healthy diet that is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and calcium. Limit sugary foods like sweets, fruit juices, and sodas.
- Make sure to have a new toothbrush every three months or get a new one as soon as the bristles are worn out.
- Avoid cigarette smoking and tobacco use.
- Visit your dentist regularly.
Takeaway Reminder And Credits
Dr. Marwan Bassil, DMD, has been practicing dentistry in New Jersey since 1998. He received his dental degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ in Newark, New Jersey. He completed his Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in southern New Jersey. Dr. Bassil is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), American Dental Association (ADA), Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA), New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA), and The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT). He is a founding dentist at both Bridgewater Family Dental and Northstar Dental Care and is certified in implantology, full-mouth reconstruction, and INVISALIGN (Clear braces).