When people think of their oral health, they often think of a secluded system. After all, you may see your primary physician for other ailments but only see your dentist once or twice a year. However, this kind of thinking can be dangerous; your oral health should be looked at holistically. Look at how poor oral health can increase your risk of disease and how you can prevent that from happening.
What Diseases Link to Poor Oral Health?
Serious diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, etc. have been linked with poor oral health.
People with diabetes often have a condition known as dry mouth. This condition depletes your saliva and makes it easier for ulcers and decay to thrive. People with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, which can lead to pain during eating and in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss. However, if a person with diabetes can manage their blood sugar, then the risk of gum disease may decrease.
A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health also found a link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer. The researchers are still unsure of the nature of the link. Some speculate that when you have poor oral health, it can cause an inflammatory response throughout the body. While inflammation is meant to help the body heal, long-term inflammation can be dangerous.
Researchers aren't quite sure what the link is between poor oral health and Alzheimer's disease. However, like cancer, many believe there is a link with chronic inflammation. When bad bacteria thrive in the oral cavity, then it can easily enter the bloodstream, trigger too much inflammation, and actually cause the brain to release excess chemicals that could kill neurons!
Those with poor oral health set themselves up for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Bad bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and form fatty plaques in the arteries. If too much fatty plaque builds up, then blood clots can form, leading to a stroke or heart attack. Again, high levels of bad bacteria can lead to inflammation. Inflamed blood vessels can break down or become too narrow.
What Can You do to Improve Your Oral Health?
As you can see, your oral cavity isn't a secluded system. It can affect your cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, and so on. Along with regular brushing and flossing, it is imperative for you to see your dentist every year for a cleaning. Contact Brian W. Hazen, D.M.D. to set up an oral health care exam. Along with brushing, flossing, and dental appointments, you can also improve your oral health with diet and exercise.
You may have heard that saliva is the mouth's natural cleaning agent. And it's true: saliva is 98% water, and it contains important enzymes, electrolytes, and antibacterial compounds. While many people think digestion starts in your stomach, it actually starts in your mouth. Saliva enzymes help to break down food, making it easier for your digestion system to absorb needed nutrients. So how can you facilitate these important functions? Drink more water!
About 75% of Americans don't get the right amount of water each day. Instead of reaching for soda, which is chock-full of sugars, try to reach for a water bottle. Your teeth and gums will thank you. Along with increasing your water intake, focus on crunchy fruits and veggies that increase saliva intake, like apples and carrots. Look for foods that have lots of calcium, phosphorous, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.
When people think of exercise improving their body, they may not even consider their oral system. But again, the body's systems aren't isolated — so improving your overall health can improve your oral health. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly and maintain a healthy BMI have a lower risk of gum disease. When you get your blood pumping during exercise, it improves your circulation, which helps you resist infection.
However, you don't want to ruin exercise benefits with bad habits. Instead of drinking sugary energy drinks, drink sugar-free drinks or water during your workout. If you improve your diet and activity levels, you'll reap oral health benefits.