Your smile says a lot about you, but what about your mouth? It may seem strange, but your oral health can actually give your doctors clues about whether or not there are ailments lurking elsewhere in your body. How can they tell? We’ve got the details right here — along with what you can do to help keep yourself healthy inside and out.
1. Heart Disease
Researchers have long been investigating the link between heart disease and oral health, and studies have shown that heart disease could start from the bacteria from gingivitis. Gingivitis causes inflammation of the gums (amongst other things), but it can also spread to your arteries and can even cause plaque deposits to develop. Left untreated, these symptoms can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The lesson? Brush your teeth!
Diabetics are prone to gingivitis because of how the disease weakens the immune system and protect itself against bacteria and infection. However, gingivitis can also make it harder to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Additionally, higher blood sugar can cause cavities and, ultimately, periodontitis which can cause severe reduction of the gums and even tooth loss. The lesson? Poor oral hygiene can be really dangerous for diabetics, so it’s doubly important to visit the dentist regularly and brush and floss religiously.
It’s probably not surprising that osteoporosis — the disease that makes your bone brittle and prone to breaking — can have a harmful effect on your teeth. But, while most people worry about their arms, legs, and hips, osteoporosis can also wreak havoc on your jawbone. If the jawbone becomes weak or degrades, it can lead to tooth loss, and also make it difficult to fit dentures or implants. What can you do to help? If you have a history of osteoporosis in your family or if your primary care doctor suspects you may develop osteoporosis, visit you dentist for a saliva test. This is a simple way to help detect and monitor bone loss, so you can find a course of treatment before it comes severe. In addition, a well-balanced diet and regular brushing and flossing can help keep teeth (and bones!) strong and healthy.
An old superstition says, “gain a child, lose a tooth”. While you’re certainly not destined to lose a tooth with each pregnancy, there is some truth to this saying. Pregnant women tend to have a harder time absorbing calcium, so teeth can become weaker during this time. Plus, vomiting and the consumption of sweet and starchy foods — common pregnancy cravings — can cause cavities and other weaknesses in your teeth. If left unattended, these conditions could certainly lead to tooth loss. Pregnant women are also more susceptible to developing gingivitis and, as luck would have it, some women have reported getting morning sickness from brushing. Is there anything that can help? Keeping a healthy, well-rounded diet is important for both mother and baby, in addition to the teeth. Plus, regular brushing and flossing will keep gingivitis at bay, and if you find yourself eating lots of sweets and starches, try to drink more water to help flush the debris off of your teeth.
Protecting your oral health is important to protecting your overall health and wellbeing. Because many health issues can present oral symptoms, visiting your dentist regularly means you can spot a problem before it starts or becomes worse.