How Does Oral Health Affect Overall Health?

Ever heard the saying "You are what you eat"? Well, it turns out, your oral health plays a big role in your overall health too! Your mouth is like a gateway to two important systems in your body: your digestion and your lungs. Brushing and flossing regularly isn't just about a pretty smile, it's about keeping your whole body healthy.

Think of your body as a giant ecosystem. Everything is connected! When your mouth is healthy, with the good balance of germs naturally present, everything functions smoothly.

But when your oral health suffers, those germs can multiply and travel throughout your body, potentially causing infections in your lungs or digestive system. Even small injuries in your mouth, like cuts or sore spots, can be entry points for germs to enter your bloodstream.

Besides the immediate discomfort of an ‘ordinary’ toothache, poor oral health can lead to long-term problems like bone loss in your jaw and even contribute to serious health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

The Importance of Oral Health

Your mouth is the gateway to two major systems of your body: the respiratory system and the digestive tract.

Ordinarily, your mouth is home to several mostly harmless germs. These germs are washed away with saliva when you eat or swallow, or cleaned away when you brush and floss regularly.

When your oral health is out of balance, the germs living on your teeth, gums, tongue, and throat can change or grow in number. Then, when you use your mouth to talk or eat, the germs in your mouth can travel to your lungs or your intestine where they can grow or spread.

 Source: PRODENTAL Studio

Your mouth is also made up of soft tissue and mucosal membranes that are more susceptible to cuts or tears. While these small abrasions are sometimes invisible to the naked eye, it makes it easier for germs to enter the bloodstream and multiply. When these tissues are unhealthy or chronically dry, they are even more easily damaged.

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Poor Oral Health

There are obvious side effects of an active oral health issue: an infected tooth, for example, can cause pain, bad breath, sensitivity, pus leakage, headache, nausea, and other symptoms that can make for some serious discomfort.

This tooth infection can then spread throughout your body, causing a life-threatening condition called sepsis that causes organ failure in its most advanced stages.

 Source: Centers of Disease Control and Prevention

While some people may be tempted to “tough out” intermittent pain or other discomfort, addressing symptoms as soon as they appear is crucial to avoid developing these dangerous long-term health effects. 

Infected, damaged, cracked, or otherwise bad teeth can cause long term side effects like bone loss in your jaw as your gums become infected and teeth need to be extracted. Dental implants can help replace these teeth and stop bone loss, but they require surgery.

Common conditions like periodontal disease have also been linked to more serious long term conditions such as heart disease and complications during pregnancy and birth. Untreated gum disease has also been linked to Type 2 diabetes in some patients.

It’s always important to talk to your dentist as soon as you notice something off about your oral health. Not only can it help alleviate any discomfort you may feel, but it can prevent larger problems from occurring.

Take Charge of Your Oral Health

Protecting the link between your oral health and whole-body health is simple if you stay consistent. Here are a few simple habit changes to make if you’re looking to improve your overall oral health:

  • Practice good oral hygiene: Brush and floss regularly, and replace your toothbrush after three months.
  • Stay up-to-date on your dental appointments: Regular cleanings help remove harmful bacteria and tartar from your mouth. Plus, if your dentist is seeing you frequently, they’ll be able to help spot when anything goes awry.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Too much sugar can damage your teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities and infection.
  • Quit tobacco: Smoking, dip, and vaping all contribute negatively to your oral and physical health.
  • Address any dental issues right away: You deserve to love your smile, and to live comfortably without fear of long-term health effects.

We Believe Everyone Deserves to Love Their Smile

If you have longstanding dental issues, it is important to make an appointment to see a dentist immediately.

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