For many, dental visits are about having your teeth cleaned and examined and, in some cases, possibly filled or repaired. However, your dental visit can reveal more than just the condition of your teeth. It can also provide an insight into your overall health. Recent studies show that poor oral health can be associated with several major health conditions. Signs of unhealthy teeth and gums may be a warning for a far more serious condition than a painful toothache. Fortunately, as members of your oral health care team, we are here to ensure your oral health is well managed so that your smile can remain happy and healthy.
The Oral Health Connection
Your mouth is home to millions of bacteria. Though most are harmless, poor oral hygiene practices can cause harmful bacteria to overgrow and overwhelm your body’s defense system, leading to possible infections. Certain medications such as decongestants and antidepressants may reduce saliva production and increase bacterial levels within your mouth, raising your risk of infection and the possibility for more severe oral health problems.
Your mouth is one of the main entry points into your body’s internal systems, such as the digestive system or respiratory system, and without good oral hygiene, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body. Studies show that the added bacteria can cause infection and health complications to the rest of your body if allowed to spread untreated.
As dentists, we are well aware of this mouth-and-body connection and are trained to recognize signs of possible underlying health conditions when examining your teeth. In fact, 90% of systemic conditions display oral symptoms. Common conditions associated with poor oral health can include:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Kidney Disease
Other conditions that your dentist can detect may include thyroid conditions, high blood pressure, sleeping disorders, anemia, and eating disorders. It is important to note that though these conditions may occur concurrently, that does not mean that one directly caused the other. Studies also show that conditions that lower your body’s resistance to infection are likely to increase your risk for other health complications including oral health conditions.
Protecting Your Oral Health
Be sure to keep your dentist up to date about your health and any medications you may be taking, as they may affect your oral health. To best protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene and attend regular dental exams and cleanings throughout the year. Brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes at a 45-degree angle with an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste. Remember to floss at least once a day as flossing works to remove plaque and leftover food from hard-to-reach areas. We recommend replacing your toothbrush every three months or once the bristles begin to wear down. Using a mouthwash can also help to keep your teeth feeling clean and your breath fresh. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will also allow you to gain nutrients and avoid eating too many sugary, starchy, and acidic foods. Avoid using cigarettes and tobacco products as they can increase your risk for oral cancer and other oral health complications.
Maintaining your health, including your oral health, is a life-long process, and following a good oral hygiene routine is the best way to manage your dental health. It is also important to attend routine exams and cleanings as our staff is trained to identify and treat oral health conditions and look for signs that may cause concern. For more information about your oral health or to schedule an appointment, please contact Merrily Sandford, DDS & Associates today.