Your Oral Health: How It Mirrors Good Overall Health
- February 2, 2018
- 6 mins read
You brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, and go to the dentist at least twice per year. You do everything that you can to keep your oral health in tip-top shape. Aside from having fresh breath and a brilliant smile, what else are you getting out of it? You may be in for a surprise.
Your Youth, the Gatekeeper to Your Body
You may think of your mouth is just another body part, but it is actually your body’s gatekeeper. Think about it: everything you eat or drink passes through your lips. Everything you ingest will go through your mouth, down your esophagus, and into your stomach. For this very reason, it only makes sense to label the mouth as the gatekeeper. After all, nothing will get into your body unless you open your mouth to allow it.
It, therefore, makes sense that your mouth can signify the overall standing of your health. In fact, the majority of systemic diseases – or diseases that affect your entire body – may first manifest into your mouth. Mouth lesions and mouth sores are telltale signs that your body is battling infection and diseases.
The AIDS/HIV Connection
In fact, in AIDS InfoNet of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care believes that a person’s oral health can be indicative of health problems. It writes, “In the early years of the HIV epidemic, dentists were often the first health professionals to notice signs of a weak immune system.”
HIV attacks the immune system. As a person’s immune system weakens, the infections can manifest in the mouth. This includes the following symptoms:
- Canker sores
- Cold sores
- Dry mouth
- Enlarged saliva glands
- Gum disease
- Hairy leukoplakia
- Kaposi’s Sarcoma
- Orla warts
Many of these symptoms can also be indicative of other diseases.
Paying for a Sweet Tooth
Another disease that can easily be traced through your mouth is diabetes, also considered as the sweet disease.
Now, diabetes, as you know, is a disease wherein patients have a compromised immune system. As a result, they do not heal as quickly as most people. To make matters worse, people with diabetes are also at increased risk of gum disease, for the very nature that they have high glucose levels. The high blood sugar count also means that they cannot efficiently go against plaque or tartar, which is a bacterial buildup on the gums and teeth.
Aside from being at risk of periodontal disease, diabetics also have to watch out for the following:
- Dry mouth due to low saliva levels
- Gum abscesses
- Mouth ulcers
- Taste disturbances
- Tooth decay
Blame the Plaque
These things being said, you may be unsurprised to hear that plaque can cause mouth infections. In fact, a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the U.S. National Library of Medicine explored how oral infection can cause systemic diseases. It is also linked to a host of problems, including dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, premature birth, and heart diseases.
Further research is being conducted to solidify this link. However, it is worth reiterating that plaque is the buildup of bacteria on your teeth and gums. If you practice poor oral, the bacteria can erode your teeth enamel and lead to gingivitis, a serious form of gum disease.
In relation to plaque buildup aggravating other conditions and diseases, experts believe that inflammation is the “common denominator.” As WebMD writes, “Periodontal disease, marked by inflammation, may increase inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation, in turn, is an underlying problem in diseases including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.” They also believe that the “oral bacteria can escape into the bloodstream and injure major organs.”
The most poignant plaque causes mouth infections that over time can result in tooth loss. As a result of poor oral hygiene, you will, therefore, get a gummy smile in time.
The Wonders of Saliva
Another factor that makes your oral health essential to your overall health is the fact that it can help doctors diagnose certain conditions. The American Dental Association can attest to how effective the saliva may be when it comes to diagnosing diseases and various conditions.
“Saliva has long been considered a ‘mirror of the body’ that generally reflects the state of a patient’s overall health,” writes the ADA on its website. “A range of systemic diseases, such as diabetes and Sjögren’s syndrome, have oral manifestations that dentists encounter in patients at various stages of development. Based on these factors, dentists are ideally situated to monitor and treat oral disease progression, impaired salivary status, and various oral complications associated with systemic conditions.”
The same source goes on to add that oral fluid has many advantages, including reduced risks of infectious disease transmission, noninvasive sample collection, increased acceptance by patients, and ease of access. What’s more, oral fluids can detect a range of biomarkers such as DNA/RNA, antibodies, hormones, proteins, and electrolytes, which can provide a comprehensive view of the patient’s overall health. It can also be used to monitor a treatment plan, as a simple cotton swab inside the patient’s mouth can reveal how the treatment is going along.
Oral fluid diagnostic tests can also detect substance abuse and a person’s HIV status. This finding paves the way for improved health initiatives, as well as long-term care facilities since the noninvasive oral fluid tests are less expensive than other diagnostic methods. It is also a safe and effective way to gauge a patient’s health status without having to resort to invasive means.
Why You Should Practice Proper Oral Hygiene
Given all the arguments above, it only makes sense that it is to your advantage to practice proper oral hygiene. Doing so will ensure that you keep gum diseases, tartar, and plaque buildup at bay. When you don’t have these sticky substances in your mouth, you don’t have to worry about the bacteria going to other parts of your body.
Since your oral health can do wonders for your health, make sure that your pearly whites are always in pristine condition. Call Kyrene Family Dentistry at 480-705-9005 to schedule a comprehensive checkup.