Dr. Greif points to tooth model with smiling female patient.A wall sconce in the hallway of our dental practice

The Link Between Oral Health and Overall Wellness

Good oral health not only enables you to speak, eat, smile, and taste, it also lessens the risk of your overall health being compromised by a weakened immune system that could lead to painful, disabling, and costly health conditions.  Poor dental health has serious consequences.

At Kingston Dental, our entire team of dentists, dental hygienists, and support staff recognize that your oral health is vitally important.  Your mouth is where bacteria from your teeth and gums can quickly enter your bloodstream and have a dramatic impact on your overall health and well-being.

That’s why it’s essential that you maintain good oral health.  Poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay and plaque.  If dental plaque is not professionally removed, it can cause cavities and gum disease, which can lead to poor overall oral health.  

Research has proven that poor dental hygiene can contribute to the onset of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, diabetes, and other serious illnesses. It can also have a negative impact on your mental health and quality of life.

Oral health can be a good general indicator of your body’s overall health and wellness.  For example, people with diseases such as diabetes or HIV are at increased risk for oral health problems. People who are undernourished or who have a weakened immune system from some other chronic illness, are also at increased risk for oral health issues.

If bacteria from your mouth is unchecked, it can travel via your bloodstream throughout your body, causing a myriad of serious health problems.  By paying attention to your oral health, you can identify potential problems early on and seek immediate treatment to prevent them from becoming more serious. You can also use your oral health as a way to monitor your overall health and wellness.  

Let’s take a more detailed look at what poor oral health can cause:

  • Gum Disease

Infections occur when plaque builds up along and under the gumline.  This can lead to periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease which often leads to bone deterioration and loss of teeth.

  • Diabetes

Dental patients who already have diabetes are much more vulnerable to periodontal disease.  They are also more susceptible to infections caused by gum disease or bad oral hygiene.  Periodontal disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels, exposing the patient to a higher risk of complications. In addition, gum disease can also lead to elevated blood sugar levels, so a person with poor oral health has a much higher risk of developing diabetes.

  • Stroke and Heart Disease

Bacteria and plaque from periodontal disease or poor oral health can enter the bloodstream through the affected gums.  These can clog the arteries which can lead to heart blockages and issues with blood flow or atherosclerosis.  This can lead to a higher chance of narrowing of the arteries, which can cause a stroke, and even increase the risk of developing types of heart disease.  

  • Respiratory Illnesses

Infections from bacteria and plaque can also travel through the body and into the lungs.  This can lead to more serious illnesses, such as bronchitis, COPD, and pneumonia.

  • Complications to Pregnancy

Because of the many hormonal changes during pregnancy, expectant mothers are much more susceptible to oral infections.  Pregnancy complications can come from even the smallest infection in any part of your body.  Gingivitis—inflamed, red, swollen or bleeding gums—and periodontitis—inflammation of the tissue around the teeth which can cause shrinkage of the gums and loosening of the teeth—are both linked to low birth weight and premature births.  Practicing good dental hygiene throughout pregnancy is the best way to avoid serious health issues for both mother and baby.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease

A recent study completed by scientists at the National Institute on Aging found that bacteria from periodontal disease is also associated with the development of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, especially vascular dementia.  Bacteria from the mouth can enter into the bloodstream, spread into nerve channels and lead to memory loss, difficulty with reasoning, and language impairment.

  • Kidney Disease

Gum disease weakens your overall immune system.  That makes you more susceptible to an infection that could result in kidney disease or failure if the infection is untreated.

  • Arthritis

Bacteria from periodontitis and gingivitis can increase inflammation in the body, resulting in a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Cancer

If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, you must already be aware of the risks associated with these habits.  But there are other types of cancers linked to poor oral health, including mouth, tongue, lip, and throat cancer. In addition, you can have an elevated risk of kidney cancer, blood cancers, and pancreatic cancer.

  • Oral Health and Mental Health

Poor oral health can have a negative impact on mental health. People with missing or damaged teeth may be self-conscious about their smile and avoid social situations. Gum disease can also lead to chronic pain and discomfort, which can have a negative impact on mood and quality of life.

Think of your mouth as the “main entryway” to the rest of your body.  Good eating habits, quitting smoking or using tobacco products, and maintaining good dental hygiene can not only improve your oral health, but it can also help to lower your risk for other health issues.

Benefits of Good Oral Health

Good oral health and consistent dental appointments that include cleanings and checkups, have a number of benefits for your overall health and wellness, including:

  • Better overall health: Good oral health is essential for overall health and well-being. It allows you to eat a healthy diet, speak clearly, and smile confidently.  It give you self-confidence and improves your self-esteem.  And you feel better all over.
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Research has shown that people with good oral health have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory infections.  Good oral health can almost always contribute to good overall health.
  • Improved mental health: Good oral health can improve your overall quality of life. People with healthy teeth and gums are more likely to smile and feel confident in their appearance.

How to Maintain Good Oral Health

Maintaining good oral health is simple and really only takes a few minutes each day. It includes brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes, flossing once a day, and seeing your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.

Here are some additional tips for maintaining good oral health:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and sweets.
  • Quit smoking or using chewing tobacco.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months with one that has soft bristles.
  • If you have braces, be sure to brush and floss carefully around them.
  • If you have dry mouth, hydrate.  At least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.
  • If you have any concerns about your teeth, call your dentist immediately.

Oral health care is essential for your overall health and well-being. It involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Oral health problems, such as cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer, can be linked to a number of systemic diseases.  But by maintaining good oral health, you can reduce your risk of developing these diseases and improve your overall quality of life.

At Kingston Dental Care, we want to make sure your teeth stay healthy, function properly, and look great no matter how young or how old you may be.  This means that protecting the health and safety of our patients and their families is our number one priority.  Our highly professional and efficient dentists, dental assistants, and hygienic staff provide quality, comprehensive dental care so that we can serve the dental needs of all our community.  We never lose sight of our #1 goal: Patients always come first.

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