Did you know that your mouth is a window to your overall health? Signs of poor oral health can be an indication of other issues going on elsewhere in your body, and conversely, there are some medical conditions which have an effect on your teeth and gums.
Good oral health is in itself worth maintaining, but by keeping a close eye on what’s going on in your mouth, you can get a warning of any other medical issues before they get out of hand. In fact, more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.
Saliva – your body’s first line of defence
We can tell a lot about what’s going on inside your body from a simple swab of saliva.
From DNA tests to illegal drug testing, your body’s saliva contains information on all kinds of hormones levels and toxins. Cortisol levels, for example, are used to test for stress responses in newborn children, while certain cancer indicators are also detectable.
Your mouth is filled with bacteria, most of which is harmless, but for the ones that aren’t, your saliva has it under control. Saliva is one of your body’s main defences against these potentially dangerous organisms, containing antibodies that attack viral pathogens such as the common cold.
Your saliva also protects you from yourself, by inhabiting the growth of a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans, which can grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection called oral thrush.
The medical effects of poor oral health
Not looking after your teeth can result in the obvious problems like bad breath and tooth decay, but it also opens the door to much more serious problems. Letting the bacteria and plaque build up between your teeth and gums can result in an infection known as gingivitis, and if left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious condition.
With gum disease, your gums become more sensitive and prone to bleeding. This is where the danger to the rest of your body comes from. The bacteria in your mouth can slip into your bloodstream, spreading itself to other parts of the body, resulting in more severe medical conditions.
Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Germs from your mouth can spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart, increasing the risk of serious illness.
Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy and birth
Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums can actually get into the bloodstream and target the foetus.
Medical conditions which may affect your oral health
Conversely, there are some medical conditions which can have an adverse effect on your oral health.
People with diabetes tend to suffer from gum disease more frequently and more severely than those without, which may have something to do with the regulation of blood sugar. Diabetes also reduces the body’s resistance to infection, making it even more important to maintain proper oral health.
The body’s immune system is weakened by HIV or the AIDS virus, and so oral problems are common in people who have HIV/AIDS. Painful mouth ulcers are one of the first symptoms of HIV, along with a sore throat.
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. As your jaw and teeth are part of your skeletal structure, this leaves them vulnerable to the disease. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
Stay on top of your oral health
Taking care of your oral health isn’t about getting the occasional filling. Your mouth is a potential doorway to your body, and so having those natural defences in good shape is common sense.
Correct and thorough brushing along with regular dental check-ups will help to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and also help to prevent further potentially life-threatening conditions.
And if you already suffer from a medical condition, such as diabetes or osteoporosis, then regular check-ups are even more important because you’re already at a higher risk of developing oral health issues.
If you would like regular dental check-ups from a friendly, experienced dentist, then SDAI is the place to call. We go above and beyond when it comes to our patients, doing everything in our power to make them feel relaxed from the moment they walk in through the door.
Contact us today if you would like to book an appointment. Our friendly staff will be only too happy to help.