Your body has the power to run like a well-oiled machine if you take care of it properly. But just like a car, if you fill it with the wrong fuel, your system can become sluggish and bigger issues may arise. In the case of your body, your oral hygiene (including what you put in your mouth) plays a large part in contributing to your overall health and wellness. This is why oral health is so important, as it is a gateway to your gut, bloodstream and general health. Bad dental practices lead to a buildup of plaque and gum disease, which can have serious repercussions for your overall health. Read on to learn more about how oral health impacts the rest of your body, and how to keep your ‘machine’ running smoothly.
Can your teeth affect your overall health?
The short answer is: yes, oral health affects people both physically and psychologically. The longer answer is: it influences how people grow, live life, speak and taste. Oral health can even affect mental health. But even more serious, are the links found between gum diseases (such as gingivitis and periodontal disease) and several chronic health problems including non communicable diseases (NCDs).
NCDs are chronic diseases which cannot be passed from person to person, but form through poor health regimes, lifestyle or genetics. Not only do NCDs put pressure on a person’s mental health, finances and overall physical health, but they can even be life threatening. It’s not all bad news though, because 40% of deaths caused by NCDs can be controlled by eliminating risk factors such as periodontitis related to poor dental health.
There are several factors which contribute to poor dental health. These include:
- Diet consisting of high sugar, acidic foods and drinks
- Not drinking enough tap water which contains fluoride
- Failing to clean teeth properly with toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste and flossing leading to the buildup of bad bacteria
- Risky behaviours causing oral injuries – extreme sports
- Existing chronic health issues
- And not visiting a dentist regularly.
Which health conditions are associated with poor dental health?
Health conditions categorised as NCDs that can be associated with poor dental health can include:
- Heart disease
People who have gum disease are at higher risk of heart diseases such as cardiovascular disease or endocarditis.
The bacteria from inflammation caused by gum disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart. This can cause the arteries to harden, which can block blood flow to parts of the body.
- Bacterial lung infections
When you have periodontal disease, you are at an increased risk of getting a lung infection. This may happen when the bad bacteria in your mouth travels to the lungs, creating a respiratory tract infection which can lead to pneumonia.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder and auto-immune disease. This means that the body has difficulty fighting off inflammation and bacteria, which increases the chances of gum disease. Here a vicious cycle of negative effects can evolve as gum disease brought on by inflammation in turn causes the body to become more inflamed.
With people who already have diabetes, periodontal disease is quite common as diabetics already have an increased chance of infection within the body. There is research which suggests periodontal disease can also increase blood sugar levels, causing further complications for people with diabetes.
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
CKD affects the oral health of people through side effects of the disease, such as gingival hyperplasia, which can lead to periodontitis. This increases systemic inflammation, leading to the worsening of CKD, which is life threatening.
If a person with a non communicable disease develops gum disease or vice versa, it can present serious health issues for them. However, in most cases, it is treatable when caught early enough.
Tips for preventing oral health problems
Now that we understand the impact oral health can have on the rest of your body, it’s important that we look at how to prevent dental health problems. Here are some tips to keep your machine running smoothly:
- Brush and floss every day
- Fill your body with the right fuel, manage your diet and decrease your sugar intake
- Drink water and use toothpaste which contains fluoride
- Visit your dentist regularly.
Everyone wants their body to run like a well-oiled machine. So why not start with your oral health? If you’re concerned about how your oral hygiene could be impacting your overall health, make sure to book in for a check up as soon as possible to tackle the problem before it gets out of hand