Everyone knows that taking care of your dental health benefits your teeth and gums. Regular dentist visits as well as daily care at home are the keys to good dental hygiene. But did you know that your dental health has serious impacts that reach far beyond your mouth? Here are a few ways the health of your teeth and gums can affect your general overall health.
While research needs to continue on this topic, there has been a connection shown between poor oral hygiene and cardiovascular health. Some studies show that periodontal disease (that is, inflammation or infection of the structures that surround your teeth, including the bone and gums) can increase inflammation in the body, including the blood vessels. This can, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A recent overview of systematic studies shows that there is an association between periodontitis and preterm birth, low birthweight babies, preterm babies with low birthweight, and the development of preeclampsia. Also, pregnant women are more at risk of developing tooth and gum issues during pregnancy, since hormonal changes tend to exaggerate the response to oral bacteria. This means it’s crucial to practice excellent oral hygiene during pregnancy and beyond.
While the connection isn’t 100 percent clear, studies have shown that there may be a link between oral bacteria and the development of pneumonia. One study examined patients in a hospital who were on a ventilator (in other words, these weren’t healthy people walking around going about their business), but they did note that there was a significant change in their oral bacteria prior to developing pneumonia. There has also been research that shows a higher mortality rate in those who develop pneumonia who experience an above average amount of gum issues.
A Special Note About Diabetes
While poor oral health doesn’t necessarily cause diabetes, having diabetes can greatly affect your oral health. Properly controlling your blood sugar can decrease your chances of a serious oral infection, which means you need to take extra good care of your oral hygiene in order to help prevent any issues that crop up from getting worse. The reason it’s such an issue is that uncontrolled (or under-controlled) diabetes can directly impact your white blood cell counts, which means it’s harder for your body to fight an infection.
Prevention is in Your Hands — and Your Mouth
In addition to a daily regimen of brushing at least twice a day and daily flossing, it’s important to visit your dentist for regular cleaning and care. Routine dental visits are encouraged for all people, including pregnant women, as thorough dental exams and prompt treatment can improve your oral health, your general health and pregnancy outcomes. Cut down on sugary foods and drinks, keep your oral hygiene habits up and visit your dentist on a regular basis to keep your overall health in tip-top shape.