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Your oral health is more important than you might realize. Get the facts about how the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health.

Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health — or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Protect yourself by learning more about the connection between your oral health and overall health.

What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?
Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

What conditions may be linked to oral health?

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease. 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.

Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:

  • Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
  • HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.

Because of these potential links, tell your dentist if you’re taking any medications or have had any changes in your overall health — especially if you’ve had any recent illnesses or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene every day. For example:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

Also, contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

Content courtesy: The Mayo Clinic

dental-hygiene-2

Ask your dental hygienist.

The recent surgeon general’s report on oral health confirms the importance of oral health to total health.

babyPremature, Low-Birthweight Babies

Studies have found that expectant mothers with periodontal (gum) disease are seven times more likely to deliver premature, low-birthweight babies than women who don’t have the disease.

cancerHeart disease

Cardiovascular disease affects 57 million people in the 5.3. And kills almost a million people each year. Recent studies have shown that a patient with periodontal (gum) disease is twice as likely to develop heart disease as one without the condition.

Untitled-4Oral cancer

Cancer is more common than Leukemia; Skin Melanoma; Hodgkin’s disease; and Cancers of the brain, liver, bone, thyroid gland, stomach, ovaries, and cervix; and is typically caused by long-term use of tobacco products and alcohol. One of the most important parts of a regular oral health exam is a thorough oral cancer screening.

diabetesDiabetes

Periodontal disease is one of the major complications of diabetes. In fact, approximately 95 percent of Americans who suffer from diabetes also have periodontal disease.

October of this year will be national dental hygiene month – a great time to visit your registered dental hygienist for a thorough mouth exam and to learn more about how oral conditions affect your overall health.

Content courtesy adha.org

diabetes1

Diabetes can cause serious problems in your mouth. However you can do something about it.

If you have diabetes, make sure you take care of your mouth. People with diabetes are at risk for mouth infections, especially periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease can damage the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place and may lead to painful chewing problems. Some people with serious gum disease lose their teeth. Periodontal disease may also make it hard to control your blood glucose (blood sugar).

Other problems diabetes can cause are dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush. Dry mouth happens when you do not have enough saliva—the fluid that keeps your mouth wet. Diabetes may also cause the glucose level in your saliva to increase. Together, these problems may lead to thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth.
If your diabetes is not under control, you are more likely to develop problems in your mouth. The good news is you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. By controlling your blood glucose, brushing and flossing every day, and visiting a dentist regularly, you can help prevent serious problems in your mouth.
Take steps to keep your mouth healthy. Call your dentist when you notice a problem.

If you have diabetes, follow these steps:

  • Control your blood glucose.
  • Brush and floss every day.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
  • Tell your dentist if your dentures (false teeth) do not fit right, or if your gums are sore.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking makes gum disease worse. Your physician or dentist can help you quit.
  • Take time to check your mouth regularly for any problems. Sometimes people notice that their gums bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth. All of these are reasons to visit your dentist.
  • Remember, good blood glucose control can help prevent mouth problems.

Content courtesy: www.nidcr.nih.gov

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