Oral health: Your gateway to better overall health and wellness
You might not think of oral health when someone asks you about your well-being. Little did we know that oral health has links with 120+ systemic diseases. Yes, you read it right. The benefits of maintaining good oral hygiene are far beyond our mouths. Healthy gums and teeth have a relationship with overall health. Poor oral health has serious consequences and is indeed an expensive affair if not treated on time. This is why oral hygiene is important and should be taken care of from the very beginning.
How is oral health related to one's overall health?
Our mouth is the entry point for our digestion and respiration tracts and this is why some bacteria can cause diseases. To maintain good oral health, brushing, flossing and rinsing can look like saviours who keep a close check on bacteria and control them. But without oral or teeth hygiene, our oral health deteriorates and hence the chances of getting an infection rise. Oral diseases are linked to various overall diseases like heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, lung diseases etc. Let’s understand them in more detail!
Conditions linked to oral health
Cardiovascular disease and Endocarditis: Gum disease and heart problems go hand-in-hand. Both the issues have a few risk factors in common like smoking, unhealthy diet habits and excessive weight. Gum disease has a direct association with an enhanced risk of having heart disease also known as cardiovascular disease.
Pregnancy and birth complications: Men have oral health issues more often than that of women. But during pregnancy, hormones change and can make women more prone to cavities and gum diseases. Expecting women are more prone to gum diseases and cavities. Many women notice that their gums become swollen, inflamed, or prone to bleeding during pregnancy known as "pregnancy gingivitis”, which may appear as early as the first trimester. Poor dental care can also lead to premature and unhealthy babies. This is why oral health is considered to be an important part to be taken care of.
Endocarditis: The tartar in the mouth also known as plaque has bacteria that may cause gum disease or gingivitis. If not treated on time, this can lead to an advanced stage. Once they reach the advanced stage, the gums inflame and start to bleed while brushing, flossing etc. While bleeding, there are chances of bacteria entering the bloodstream and infecting the other parts of the body as well. Germs from the other parts of the body (such as the mouth) travel through the bloodstream and may cause infections in the inner lining of your heart chambers.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia and its connection with multiple risk factors, including oral risk factors, is a complex subject, especially in older people. Studies state that an increased number of dental caries and missing teeth are related to the hiked case of pneumonia. The fundamentals like brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and tongue cleaning remain the same for the prevention of oral diseases.
Diabetes and Gum Disease - A two-way street: There is a link between your oral health and diabetes because of high blood sugar. Diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease due to poor blood glucose control. Gum infection further decreases blood glucose control and increases insulin resistance and hyperglycemia (an increase of glucose in the bloodstream). Severe gum disease can then increase blood glucose levels, contributing to increased periods of time with high blood sugar. It also weakens the white blood cells which are the defenders against bacterial infections in our mouth.
Other possible oral health connections: Besides the above-mentioned ones, oral health has connections with lung conditions, arthritis, obesity and much more. As it is rightly said, "Your body can affect your mouth and vice-versa." Taking good care of teeth and gums is the need of the hour.
Tips for maintaining good oral health
- You might not know the “Rule of 2”, which tells you to:
a. Brush twice a day for 2 minutes standing in front of the mirror
b. Visit your dentist twice a year and get your teeth cleaning done
c. Take your child to the dentist as soon he/she turns 2 years old
The general recommendation is to brush twice a day. Brushing before going to bed is an important step that needs to be followed as food particles which got stuck while having your dinner may invite a lot of bacteria overnight.
Don't brush too hard as it may damage your enamel or gums. Move the toothbrush gently at a 45-degree angle for the front teeth and circular motions in the back teeth to remove plaque but not too harshly. Brushing too hard is never a good idea. Dentists recommend not to hurry while brushing.
Tongue cleaning should not be ignored as plaque can build up on your tongue as well. It helps you reduce plaque, bad breath and bacteria. Using a tongue scraper daily can also enhance the sense of taste.
Using fluoride toothpaste is recommended by dentists. Fluoride is considered the leading defender against cavities. Not only does it fight germs but also acts as a protective barrier for your mouth during the remineralization of the enamel.
Ensure to floss your teeth properly. The stuck food particles between your teeth may end up in a cavity later. Flossing once a day helps in reducing plaque and stimulates the well being of gums.
Consumption of sugary and acidic food items should be limited. Acidic foods can erode the enamel and can also lead to cavities. It is recommended to be mindful while consuming such food items and brushing your teeth after 45 minutes to help the teeth to remineralize and prevent damage.
India is known as the oral cancer capital of the world. Avoiding the consumption of smoking, tobacco, alcohol etc. is a must in order to take care of your oral health. Saying bye to these products will just not only keep you safe from periodontal diseases but can also save you from oral cancer.
Visit the dentist twice a year. While we are sure that you must be taking good care of your oral health, visiting a dentist twice a year is no harm. Regular visits help diagnose the oral or teeth problems at an early stage which can become a more painful and expensive affair later.
Looking after your oral health is indeed an investment in your overall health. Now that we know how it is related to 120+ systemic diseases, there is no chance of staying ignorant about it. Companies like MyDentalPlan are striving hard to make preventive oral health accessible and affordable for all. The standardized costs, PAN India network and best dentists are all that you need to keep your oral health game strong.
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About the author
Mumal Shekhawat is the senior content writer at MyDentalPlan Healthcare. She is an MBA who got a palpable spark from writing, and has pursued it as her career for almost 5 years now.