Impeccable oral health is about much more than a bright smile. In fact, your teeth and gums are often referred to as a window to your overall health. If your daily oral hygiene habits have begun to slip or you have not scheduled an appointment with your dentist in the last year, then you may want to take a look at how your dental health may be affecting your overall health.
Saliva and Infections
One of the most common oral health issues is a limited production of saliva. Saliva not only helps to preserve your teeth and gums, but it also begins to breakdown some of the microbes that you ingest. When these microbes are not killed in your mouth, it will increase the risk that they cause an infection further down in your digestive tract. Common causes of a reduced saliva flow include prescription painkillers, over-the-counter decongestants, cancer, cancer treatments, and diabetes.
Oral Bacteria and Heart Health
A number of studies now show that oral bacteria may be linked to heart health and the circulatory system. Inflammation from gum disease as well as tooth decay are found in much higher rates in those with heart disease. Limited studies have also shown that plaque on a patient’s teeth could also affect the circulatory system. Many of the most common medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer can lower the immune system, and this means an increased risk of oral infections.
Catching Serious Medical Complications Early
Many patients are surprised to hear that their dentist may actually be the first one to catch certain medical problems. Studies published by the Journal of the American Geriatric Society have shown that patients that lose one or more teeth before the age of 35 are at a higher risk of developing dementia. Loose and damaged teeth have also been closely connected with heart and circulatory problems well before any other symptoms appear (Source: Dr. David K Skeels).
Gum Health and Your Brain
Having healthy teeth and gums will immediately improve a patient’s self-esteem and confidence, and this has a variety of benefits for their mental and psychological health. Adults that have been diagnosed with gingivitis may also be harming their cognitive abilities. Studies published by the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry have shown that those diagnosed with gum disease and tooth decay generally perform worse on cognitive tests.
It is never a bad time to take a fresh look at your oral health and hygiene practices. Anyone that has begun to neglect their daily hygiene habits or annual dental appointments should understand that they may be harming more than their smile.