From Tampa Bay to Calgary, dentistry is an important part of health care. It involves practices that maintain oral health and treat medical conditions that originate in the mouth. And, contrary to what you might think, dentistry saves lives.
For better or worse, dentistry is a field that is largely considered to be separate from the medical field. However, proper dental care is a vital aspect of overall health, and failure to maintain a healthy smile and gum line can result in much larger health problems down the road. Here are just a few ways in which dentistry is intertwined with overall health.
1. The Mouth’s Connection to the Stomach
The human mouth contains somewhere between 500 and 1000 different species of microorganisms, depending on the person and environment. Some of these bacteria are important for our health. They break down food, metabolize unwanted bacteria, and support the mouth’s ecosystem. Other bacteria are not so good. These produce tooth-dissolving acids, create unwanted smells (bad breath), and cause gum disease.
Brushing and flossing your teeth and gums regularly reduces the amount of the harmful kind of bacteria in your mouth. It removes all of the nasty byproducts that are left behind by the bacteria, like plaque. It also diminishes the likelihood that you will develop more serious health issues, like cavities, abscesses, or gum disease.
Evidence suggests that certain bacteria found in the mouth can cause ulcers to form in the esophagus and stomach. There is also evidence that suggests that the presence of ulcers increases the likelihood that certain cancers will form in the esophagus and stomach. A dentist can tell you what kinds of things to do to prevent these disorders from happening.
2. The Connection to the Heart
For reasons that are still somewhat unclear, gum disease and heart disease have a remarkably positive correlation. Although both disorders have a lot of risk factors in common, some people believe that gum disease plays a direct role in increasing one’s risk for heart disease.
Inflammation in the mouth has been known to cause swelling in blood vessels elsewhere in the body. This, in turn, puts undue stress on the heart and lungs. This is especially dangerous in people that exhibit a lot of the health risks for heart disease already. Since both diseases share many risk factors in common, people with gum disease should take care to improve their oral health.
3. Oral Hygiene and Diabetes
Diabetes and oral hygiene are intertwined in a couple of ways. First, inflammation that originates in the mouth takes away from the body’s ability to control blood sugar. This is particularly troublesome for diabetics, whose bodies already struggle to regulate and control blood sugar. Also, high blood sugar has been shown to help foster infections, which only worsens the situation in the mouth. This, in turn, further impairs the body’s ability to control blood sugar, and the vicious cycle continues.
There is good news: The cycle works both ways. By treating and managing the inflammation, you can return the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, which in turn helps the body handle infection more effectively. By practicing proper oral hygiene, you can help regulate your blood sugar, and reduce the risk of infection.
These are only a few of the ways in which your oral health and your overall health are connected. By taking the necessary steps to maintain the well-being of your smile, you are simultaneously taking steps to prevent illness in the rest of your body. Don’t let your lack of oral hygiene set you up for sickness down the road.
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Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves long distance running and considers himself a health and fitness enthusiast. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range in his writing for Dentrix Dental Care.