Eyes may be the window to our soul, but dentists often say that our mouth is the window to our body's health. Almost every disease, in addition to other symptoms, will also cause some change in our mouth. Sometimes the first sign of a disease shows up in your mouth. That’s why it is important to understand the connection between our oral health and our overall health.
Toothache – the most common symptom
Few of us have been so fortunate to never spend a sleepless night because of a toothache. Most people have a strange fear of dental work of any kind, and that’s why treatment often comes too late. In the end, the only solution in most cases is tooth extraction. Fortunately, the times are changing. When suffering from toothache, there are several options but only if you contact your dentist as soon as possible. Some of the most common procedures are dental filling, root canal, dental bridge, crown, or ultimately, tooth extraction. Today these treatments and procedures can be very comfortable, and teeth extractions are only done when necessary. There are also cosmetic improvements and dental implants available which may offer alternatives to traditional treatment.
Halitosis is also known as bad breath. In most cases, halitosis originates in the mouth due to open-air interaction with bacteria. In other words, a bad breath is likely a sign of poor oral health. Even some cases of nasal dysfunction can cause extremely bad breath. Also, all kinds of sinusitis, post-nasal drip, and allergies may contribute to the bad breath problem.
Poor dental health and increased stroke risk
A loss of teeth and gums that surrounds them can contribute to the increased risk of ischemic stroke. Until recently, experts couldn’t explain the connection between our teeth and hour hearts. But then Boston University did a study where the relationship between gum disease and history of stroke was definitely confirmed. This study has confirmed that older people, with a long history of tobacco use, almost toothless, were significantly more likely to have a history of stroke than those with teeth and no appreciable attachment loss. The chances of having a stroke is about twice as high in those with complete tooth loss then in those with healthy teeth. However, the exact connection still hasn’t been found! Later, a group of experts tried to explain the connection saying that every inflammation in the mouth is nothing more than a general inflammation. They have proved that a single periodontal treatment, such as scaling, can lower levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker known to be associated with heart and vascular disease. Therefore, we can now say with certainty that a chronic inflammation arising from dental disease can cause hardening of the arteries and atherosclerosis – a key risk factor for stroke.
Oral health and overall health status
Our mouths are literally filled to the brim with all kinds of different bacteria. This is completely normal because, with good oral care we can keep these bacteria under control. Oral hygiene is usually based on daily brushing and flossing. In addition to these “artificial” ways of handling bacteria, our saliva is also a key defense against bacteria and viruses. So in a normal situation, we shouldn’t have any problems. However, poor dental hygiene allows these bacteria grow out of control, which can lead to severe inflammation and gum infections. This can be extremely dangerous, because our gums are our first line of defense, and when bacteria pass this line the next stop is our bloodstream. We all know what happens then: bacterial attacks on all organs; it’s usually heart and joints, but the brain, liver, and kidneys could also be affected!
Dental (oral) health and other health conditions
Our dental health and oral health in general could be linked to a number of different diseases. We have already mentioned the connection between bad teeth and cardiovascular disease (heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke, bacterial endocarditis, etc).
Some other related conditions include:
Pregnancy: Gum disease could be linked to premature birth. Bacteria enter the bloodstream via damaged gums, and end up in pregnant woman's placenta or amniotic fluid, which causes a premature birth. When pregnant, it is vital to maintain oral health.
Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth, and a variety of oral infections; in return, poor oral health can make diabetes more difficult to control. That’s why all people diagnosed with diabetes must pay extra attention to oral hygiene.
HIV/AIDS:One of the first signs of AIDS may appear in a patient’s mouth, usually as a severe gum infection. In most cases this is a fungi Candida infection, seen as a white layer over the tongue and gums.
Oral hygiene advice
Good oral hygiene is necessary for the prevention of dental caries, periodontal diseases, bad breath and other dental problems. The three main steps in maintaining good oral hygiene are:
1. Tooth brushing - the most important part of the process. Tooth brushing will remove dental plaque and other debris from teeth. You should brush your teeth in the morning, after every meal during the day, and before you go to sleep. Be sure to use a soft-bristled brush, and also be sure it is the right size. Keep in mind that, generally, smaller is better. The bristles should be held at a 45 degree angle to the teeth. Front teeth should be brushed on the inside surfaces of the upper and lower jaws by tilting the brush vertically.
It is also very important to brush your tongue, which helps freshen the breath.
A good and effective brushing should last at least no less than 3 minutes. Be sure to be gentle, because brushing the teeth too vigorously could cause the gums to recede and exposes root surfaces.
2. Flossing teeth - Although most people don’t floss, this is an extremely useful measure which helps remove plaque between the teeth, in areas that a toothbrush can’t reach. Simply wrap about 18-inches of floss around the middle fingers of your hands - try to hold the floss tightly - and gently guide it between your teeth. Be careful not to injure your gums!
3. Regular visits to the dentist - Unfortunately, dental work is often expensive. In Australia, for example, a standard consultation costs around $100, while the bill for more complicated procedures such as root canal work can be as high as $500. If we include specialist treatment, the bill can easily go into thousands of dollars. Fortunately, private health insurance provides a partial discount for these costs, but still, the treatment can be extremely expensive.
Following all the procedures of dental health we’ve described above, you can avoid all these expenses, possible health complications, bad breath, and also enjoy a perfect smile. It’s definitely worth trying!