Your mouth is essentially the gateway to your body. Poor or good oral health has a direct impact on your systemic health, and if your systemic health is afflicted by disease, this in turn has an impact on your oral health. It’s vital to evaluate where your oral and systemic health stand, so that you can better balance them.
The Oral to Systemic Connection
Your mouth has vital defense mechanisms and poor oral hygiene will weaken these defenses, leading to problems like cavities, gum disease, dental abscesses, or more. What many people don’t realize is that these oral conditions can stir up other diseases in the body, such as:
- Pneumonia: An infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs, filling them with fluid. Periodontal (gum) disease and dental caries can trigger pneumonia.
- Endocarditis: A rare condition that inflames your heart lining, muscles, and valves. Minor gum injury or poor oral hygiene that results in infection can trigger this disease.
- Cardiovascular disease: Affects your heart and blood vessels, which can lead to arrhythmia, heart failure, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and more. Periodontal disease is a common trigger of heart problems.
- Pregnancy and birth complications: Periodontal disease in expecting mothers can cause premature birth and low birth weight.
The Systemic to Oral Connection
On the other side of the connection, you may have an incredible oral hygiene routine, but are afflicted by a certain disease that makes it a struggle to maintain. Unfortunately, if it’s a chronic disease, the situation is more so out of your hands and all you can really do is your best to maintain a healthy mouth. Some systemic diseases that affect your oral health include:
- Diabetes: A disease where the pancreas cannot properly regulate glucose levels. Over time, if a diabetic cannot maintain proper levels, they have a higher risk of developing tooth decay, cavities, or gum disease.
- HIV/AIDS: AIDS is a chronic immune system disease caused by HIV. HIV damages the immune systems by interfering with the body’s natural ability to fight infection and disease. With the body’s defenses weakened, this disease can cause chronic dry mouth, periodontal disease, sores, blisters, warts, thrush, or dental caries.
- Osteoporosis: A disease that causes the bones in your body to become weak and brittle that a minor fall, stress, or cough may cause a fracture. The same goes for your teeth, as this condition can cause loose teeth, receding gums, or ill-fitting dentures.
- Alzheimer’s disease: A progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. Typically occurring in elderly patients, this disease can lead to periodontal disease or loose teeth.
There are other diseases linked to oral health, such as eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and immune system disorders. Certain medications, including decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics, and antidepressants, can also cause oral health problems because they have the potential of reducing saliva production.
Protecting Your Oral Health
It’s important to protect your oral health, whether you are afflicted with a disease or not. The simplest way you can do this is by practicing good oral hygiene:
- Brush and floss your teeth at least two times a day, every day.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste.
- Incorporate mouthwash into your routine to help remove remaining debris.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
- Schedule regular visits to your dentist for checkups and professional cleanings.
- Eat more vegetables and limit sugary and acidic food and drinks.
- Avoid smoking, chewing, or vaping any type of tobacco product.
Protecting your oral health is a long-term investment in also protecting your systemic health. Be sure to contact your dentist with any oral health problems that come up, or if you’ve been diagnosed with a disease that will affect your oral health.