Brushing and flossing your teeth may save you extra sessions in the dentist’s chair each year, but the benefits of dental hygiene do not end with pearly whites. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between oral hygiene and overall health.
Oral health offers clues about overall health, advises the Mayo Clinic. When a dentist or hygienist checks a person’s mouth, he or she is getting a window into that person’s overall wellness – including if something is amiss.
Dental hygiene matters because, without proper brushing and flossing, bacteria in the mouth can grow unchecked. Over time, that bacteria can infiltrate and break down the soft tissues in the gums and teeth, eventually leading to decay and gum disease. Greenwood Dental Care in Illinois states that the bacteria from the mouth could travel into the bloodstream and elsewhere, causing a host of issues.
There’s a high correlation between an unhealthy mouth and systemic diseases. The United Kingdom-based dental group Fulham Road Dental indicates that gum disease is linked to heart problems, kidney diseases and certain types of cancer. Dentists who notice problems in their patients’ mouths may be able to predict potential illnesses elsewhere in the body, advising those patients to seek consultations with other healthcare providers.
Here’s a deeper look at some of the correlations between oral health and overall health, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.
Endocarditis: When bacteria or other germs from the mouth or another part of the body spread through the bloodstream, they can attach to certain areas of the heart. This causes an infection in the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves.
Pregnancy and birth complications: Periodontitis has been linked to low birth weight and premature birth.
Cardiovascular disease: While it’s not fully understood why, clogged arteries, stroke and heart disease may be linked to inflammation and infection caused by oral bacteria.
Pneumonia: Bacteria in the mouth may be pulled into the lungs, where it can lead to respiratory illness, such as pneumonia.
It’s a two-way street with health and the mouth. Certain diseases can lead to issues in the mouth. HIV/AIDS may cause mucosal lesions in the mouth; those with osteoporosis may have weakened periodontal bone and tooth loss; and research has shown that diabetes puts gum health at risk.