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Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health

Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health

Your oral health is more important than you think. Learn how oral, tooth, and gum health affects general health.

Mayo Clinic Staff

Did you know that your oral health provides clues about your overall health, or that problems with your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Protect yourself by learning more about the relationship between your oral health and overall health.

What is the relationship between oral health and overall health?

Like other parts of the body, your mouth is full of bacteria — almost harmless. However, your mouth is the gateway to your digestive tract and respiratory tract, and some of these bacteria can cause illness.

Normally, the body’s natural defenses and good oral care, such as daily toothpaste and dental floss, continue to control the bacteria. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that can lead to oral infections such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.

In addition, certain medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, analgesics, diuretics, and antidepressants may reduce saliva flow. Saliva helps wash away food, neutralize the acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, and protect you from microorganisms that multiply and lead to disease.

Studies have shown that inflammation associated with oral bacteria and severe gum disease (periodontitis) may be involved in some diseases. In addition, certain illnesses such as diabetes and HIV / AIDS can reduce the body’s resistance to infection and make oral health problems more serious.

What conditions may be related to oral health?

Your oral health can contribute to a variety of illnesses and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis. This infection of the lining of the heart chamber or valve (endocardium) usually occurs when bacteria or other bacteria from other parts of the body, such as the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach to specific areas of the heart. Occurs in.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Although the relationship is not fully understood, some studies suggest that heart disease, arterial blockage, and stroke may be associated with inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause. ..
  • Complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Periodontitis is associated with preterm birth and low birth weight.
  • pneumonia. Certain bacteria in the mouth can be drawn into the lungs and cause pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.

Certain conditions, such as the following, can also affect oral health:

  • Diabetes mellitus. Diabetes puts the gums at risk by reducing the body’s resistance to infection. Periodontal disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people with diabetes.

    Studies show that people with periodontal disease have a hard time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal treatment can improve diabetes control.

  • HIV / AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people infected with HIV / AIDS.
  • osteoporosis. This bone debilitating disease is associated with periodontal and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis have a low risk of damaging the jaw bone.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, oral health can be seen to deteriorate.

Other conditions that may be associated with oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and immune system disorders that cause dry mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome).

Tell your dentist about the medications you are taking and any changes in your overall health, especially if you have recently become ill or have a chronic illness such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice proper oral hygiene every day.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes each time. Use a soft bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Dental floss every day.
  • Use mouthwash to remove food particles left over after brushing and dental floss.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary foods and drinks.
  • Replace the toothbrush every 3-4 months or earlier if the bristles are spread or worn.
  • Schedule regular dental examinations and cleaning.
  • Avoid using tobacco.

Also, contact your dentist immediately if you have any oral health problems. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

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