Your mouth is one of the most important parts of your body. You use your mouth to utter words, eat food, drink water and show your emotions. When you go to the dentist, you might not think much about all your mouth can tell you.
Neglecting to care for your teeth and gums can cause problems for your overall health. Dentists often check for more things than just the health of your teeth. In fact, your dental health is a gateway to your overall health.
The Mouth and Body Connection
People’s mouths are full of mostly harmless bacteria. Although your mouth is the gateway for food and drinks, it’s also the gateway to your digestive system and respiratory tract.
When harmful bacteria enter your mouth, they may end up in those crucial body systems. The human body is pretty good at warding off harmful bacteria, and daily dental hygiene elevates those defenses. If you don’t take care of your teeth, though, serious consequences may occur, like gum disease or another bodily infection.
Below are four ways our dental health reflects our overall health, followed by some practical ways to maintain oral health and hygiene so you can live a healthy life!
1. Oral Health Indicates Nutritional Deficiencies
By looking at your teeth, your dentist may be able to tell if you have nutritional deficiencies. The human body relies on nutrients to function properly. A lack of a certain vitamin or nutrient can alter the way your body works.
Many people have deficiencies in vitamins A, B, C and D, and iron. That’s why you might be encouraged to take a supplement to boost those vitamins so you can improve things like digestion, bone growth and your immune system.
A dentist can tell if you have a deficiency by examining the oral cavity. Vitamin deficiencies often result in some sort of manifestation, like impaired tooth formations, cracked lips, sore tongues and gingivitis. From there, your dentist may recommend changes in your diet to boost those nutrients.
2. Saliva Can Help Diagnose Diseases
How often do you go to the doctor for a sore throat or another illness, and the doctor takes a swab test of your saliva? Many illnesses are diagnosed by swabbing and testing the saliva in your mouth or the back of your throat.
Doctors and dentists can diagnose both dental and body system diseases because of saliva. Saliva carries with it all sorts of bacteria, which doctors can examine to make the diagnosis.
The best parts about saliva? It’s easy to collect, convenient to store, is non-invasive and contains extremely high-quality DNA. It’s just as good as using blood to diagnose an illness. Once diagnosed, you can get the correct medications and treatment so you can feel better.
3. Periodontal Disease Connects to Other Bodily Illnesses
Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is a chronic illness where bacteria in the plaque on your teeth inflame the gums. This can be extremely painful, and those who have it often experience irritation, bleeding and swelling.
The inflammation associated with periodontal disease can cause diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory disease and even cancer. For diabetes, the relationship can go both ways. Periodontal disease increases blood sugar, leading to diabetes, and those with diabetes are more likely to develop infections.
By taking control of your dental health, you can prevent gum disease and potentially other life-threatening illnesses.
4. Tooth Decay Causes More Serious Health Problems
Over 90% of adults aged 20 to 64 have had cavities at some point in their lives. If you ask most people, they’ve likely had at least one cavity. The reasons for cavities are numerous, from the way teeth form to a person’s diet or failed dental hygiene.
Here’s the process of tooth decay:
- White spots form on the teeth when the enamel begins to dissolve. Usually, this can be easily treated.
- If not treated, those white spots turn into brown spots, which you know as cavities.
- Cavities that are detected and filled early on usually don’t cause pain. However, if they’re not detected, further tooth decay leads to dentin decay, and that’s when people begin to notice the pain.
- If untreated, the innermost layer of the tooth, called the pulp, decays, which causes severe pain, and it’s when a root canal is needed.
- Finally, if the pulp decay is not treated quickly, an infection can enter the pulp, causing a tooth abscess.
Allowing tooth decay to advance can cause further bodily health issues. If you have pain in your mouth, you might eat less, causing weight loss. Tooth loss changes appearance, which may decrease self-esteem and hamper your mental health.
Maintaining Proper Oral Health and Hygiene
A healthy body starts with a healthy mouth, which is why it’s essential to regularly visit your dentist and learn about proper oral hygiene. Here are some tips for a healthy mouth:
- Twice a day, take time to brush your teeth using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Floss every day to get out those stuck food particles.
- Use mouthwash to get rid of any extra particles in your mouth.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks. A diet with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein without added sugars is best.
- Regularly schedule dental checkups.
- Regularly replace your toothbrush, especially if the bristles are no longer uniform.
- Don’t use tobacco.
If you have any questions, you can always ask your dentist about your oral hygiene.
A Healthy Mouth for a Healthy Body
Your teeth, gums and tongue tell a lot about your overall health. By taking care of your dental health, you can prevent other illnesses and diseases.
Now, go brush your teeth!