Why Oral Health is a Good Indicator Of How Healthy You Are Overall

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Are you aware that your oral health can offer clues about your overall health? Or that your mouth problems can affect your body? Well, just like other people, you may think that your oral health has no connection to your overall health. However, your oral health usually goes beyond being able to eat enjoyable and nutritious foods (1). Oral health issues may be a sign of many other health problems.

According to the Journal of American Dental Association, the majority of patients who have recently experienced heart attacks were more likely to have cavities, dental caries, gum disease and inflammation around the tooth. Since later studies also confirmed the results, doctors and dentists have now recognized that poor oral health can lead to a variety of heart conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attacks (2), and atherosclerosis.

Why good oral health may lead to a healthier you

Healthy gums may mean a healthier heart

If you are suffering from advanced gum disease, you may be likely to have a heart attack (3). Bacteria and other products from your mouth may get into your bloodstream and cause blood clots that may end up clogging your arteries. If this goes to the brain you may suffer a stroke.

Regular visits to the dentist is very important

According to studies, gum disease has been linked to several complications such as preterm birth, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. If you are suffering from a gum disease, you need to complete your treatment plan as recommended by your doctor.

Poor oral health may affect your memory

If you are suffering from gingivitis, you are likely to perform worse on tests of cognitive skills and memory.  A recent analysis led by NIA scientists suggests that bacteria that cause gum disease are also associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, especially vascular dementia. The results were reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (4). For those with early stages of dementia, a person may lose the ability to clean their teeth, stop understanding that their teeth need to be kept clean, or lose interest in doing so. This process increases oral bacteria that can increase the level of dementia.

Healthy gums may help you control your blood sugar

If you are suffering from diabetes, you may have more complications with gum disease. Taking good care of your teeth and gums, including getting regular cleanings and needed treatments, will help you prevent these problems or stop them from getting worse. Keeping your mouth healthy will also make it easier for you to manage your diabetes.

This is because the diabetics’ healing process is usually a bit slow. Research has also shown that once diabetics gum issues were properly treated managing their blood sugar becomes easy. This means good oral health may lead to reduced bacteria complications.

Untreated, these mouth problems can lead to tooth loss. Almost 25% of U.S. adults with diabetes ages 50 and older have severe tooth loss, compared with about 16% of those without diabetes (5).

How to protect your overall health

In summary one of the best ways to protect your oral health is by ensuring that your teeth are healthy at all times. Since older adults are prone to chronic and oral health problems, this becomes even more important as you age. While maintaining good oral health may not prevent some diseases, having healthy teeth is a very important factor in your health. In order to do this, you need to

  • Avoid smoking
  • Brush and floss your teeth at least two times every day.
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings and checkups.
  • Eat a healthy meal and minimize between the meals snacks.
  • Replace your toothbrush as soon as you can, preferably after every 3 months.
  • As soon as you start experiencing any oral health issue contact your dentist.
  • Avoid consuming starchy or sugary food.
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Well, while not all studies have confirmed that there is slink, having good oral health is still one of the best things to do. As a part of your oral care, visit your dental professional regularly and include a professional teeth cleaning at least once each year. Also, make sure you eat a healthy meal, change your toothbrush regularly and brush and floss your teeth regularly.

(1) Dietary intake of fatty acids and fish in relation to cognitive performance at middle age

(2) Heart disease

(3) Will taking care of my teeth help prevent heart disease?

(4) Clinical and Bacterial Markers of Periodontitis and Their Association with Incident All-Cause and Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia in a Large National Survey

(5) Prevalence of and Changes in Tooth Loss Among Adults Aged ≥50 Years with Selected Chronic Conditions — United States, 1999–2004 and 2011–2016

by Cara Lucas

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