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How Dental Health Affects Overall Health


You may think that what goes on with your teeth and mouth doesn’t affect the rest of your body, but in truth dental health has a big influence over your bodily health in general. Gum disease alone can allow bacteria to enter into your bloodstream and cause problems elsewhere in your body, and there are some signs of disease that show up first in your mouth. Here are some of the ways that your dental health affects your overall health.

It’s perfectly normal for your mouth to be home to many different kinds of bacteria. Good oral health care, consisting of daily brushing and flossing, keeps these bacteria populations under control. Adequate saliva also helps in your defense against out of control bacteria in the mouth because it contains enzymes that can fight bacteria. However, if the bacteria in your mouth get out of balance, they can cause a gum infection called peridontitis.

If your guns are healthy, then bacteria from your mouth have a difficult to impossible time entering into your general bloodstream. But if you have gum disease, you may be providing harmful bacteria a way of getting into general circulation. The danger is compounded by health conditions or medications that reduce the flow of saliva or otherwise throw off the bacterial balance in your mouth. Many researchers now believe that unhealthy gums and peridontitis can lead to general health problems that may seem totally unrelated to oral health.

Researchers have found links between many types of cardiovascular (heart) disease and poor oral health. Clogged arteries and stroke are two conditions that correlate with teeth and gum problems. Though causation has not been determined, further research is ongoing.

Another health concern that is linked with poor oral health is premature birth, which has been linked to gum disease in the mother. Anyone considering becoming pregnant should maintain the best possible oral health before and during pregnancy to help ensure the baby will be healthy.

Diabetes and poor oral health are closely intertwined, since diabetes increases risk for cavities, tooth loss, and oral infections. Bad oral health can also make diabetes more difficult to control, causing blood sugar to rise more and resulting in the need for more insulin.

People with HIV or AIDS commonly have dental health problems as well, including mouth ulcers and dry mouth that may be cause by viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. In fact, one of the first signs of AIDS can be a severe gum infection. Oral health is a good indicator of overall health in people with HIV or AIDS.

Other health conditions that can show up first as problems in your mouth include some kinds of cancers and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as substance abuse problems. Maintaining good dental health is far more than a way to have a beautiful smile. Good dental health often helps the rest of your body stay healthy. Likewise, oral problems spotted early can help doctors diagnose conditions that you may not think are linked with dental health. Taking care of your teeth and mouth, and visiting your dentist regularly is a great investment in your total health, from head to toe.