Dental Care and Your Overall Health

If you have good oral hygiene, the chances are you also probably have great overall health. Not many people know that your oral health actually affects your overall health. Therefore, when you use good dental care, you are also benefiting your entire health. However, if you do not take care of your oral hygiene, you may be opening the doors to disease and infection. Also, if you have a prior condition such as diabetes then it is possible that your health could worsen along with your oral hygiene. Your mouth can also be an indicator that there is something else wrong in your system. For this reason, many doctors will ask if you have a dry mouth or a distinct taste in your mouth in order to make a diagnosis about another region in your body entirely.

Routine dental care can help to protect you from many diseases. Good dental hygiene, like brushing and flossing, helps to eliminate harmful bacteria and plaque. Even your saliva helps to defend against some types of disease with the enzymes it contains. However, those who do not practice good oral hygiene usually end up with plaque build up in their mouth that creates tartar deposits on the teeth and below the gums. At this point, the person will more than likely develop some kind of periodontal disease whether it be gingivitis or periodontitis. Once periodontal disease occurs, the bacteria from your mouth can actually enter your bloodstream and create many overall health problems.

There are several specific health connections that can be linked to dental care and hygiene. For example, many doctors have concluded that those with periodontal disease have a high risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. Once the bacteria from the periodontal disease travels into the bloodstream, it will flow down to the cardiovascular region and create problems such as blocked arteries, strokes, heart disease and bacterial endocarditis among other heart related problems. Women who are pregnant and have periodontal disease often give birth prematurely due to the bacteria traveling to either the placenta or amniotic fluid. Due to the pregnancy, many women cannot seek medical treatment for gum disease, making it crucial for women to maintain a good dental hygiene routine in order to avoid any possible birth complications if they do become pregnant.

Diabetes and oral health are quite complicated and can be compared to who came first, the chicken or the egg? Diabetics may ultimately have dental problems, regardless of their current dental health. Of course, the chances of these problems increase when the diabetic does not have a good dental hygiene routine. Some things that can occur include dry mouth (which means there is more bacteria in the mouth because the enzymes in the saliva cannot eliminate the excess bacteria), cavities, weakened tooth enamel, periodontal disease, and even tooth loss. In addition, those who have a poor dental hygiene routine often find it difficult to control their diabetes. They may then become more prone to infections and need to use more insulin to keep their blood sugar level at a normal level.

Many dentists can even suspect certain medical diseases during an oral health examination. Patients who suffer from AIDS or HIV may experience one of the early signs before they are diagnosed with the disease, demonstrating white spots or rare lesions in the mouth and on the tongue or very bad cases of periodontal disease. Likewise, early signs of osteoporosis can be detected in the teeth by just taking an X Ray of the teeth. Other diseases which have been linked to showing early signs in the mouth include some types of cancers, Sjogrens syndrome, gonorrhea, syphilis, drug abuse and eating disorders like bulimia. Therefore, the mouth can be one of the leading indicators of what is happening in one’s overall health.

Dr. Kevin Kelaher

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