If you’re looking to improve your health, pretty much all of the advice you’ll find will boil down to three basic things: eat a balanced diet, exercise, and get enough sleep. However, there is a fourth piece of advice that often gets left out: take care of your teeth. More and more research is showing that the health of your mouth directly affects your overall health, so now, going to the dentist is important for more than just your teeth. Today, we talk about this little known connection and what it means for you.
The Oral Systemic Link
This connection we’re alluding to comes from something called the oral systemic link. Basically, it means that the health of your mouth often dictates the health of your body because anything in your mouth can travel to everywhere else in your body.
This is pretty easy to understand when you think about something like digestion. Food enters the mouth, goes into the stomach, and eventually it is broken down into chemical energy that is carried throughout your entire body via your bloodstream.
Unfortunately, this also means that harmful things, like bacteria, can also enter the body through the mouth. Periodontal disease, better known as gum disease, is an infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth, and it usually occurs as the result of a lack of oral hygiene. Not only is it very damaging to the teeth, but recent research has shown that just because the bacteria starts in the mouth, it doesn’t necessarily stay there.
The gums are very vascular structures, meaning anything that is on them can quickly get into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, gum disease bacteria has access to a person’s internal organs, and researchers believe it can cause an inflammatory response that can lead to a wide array of health problems. This is why people with gum disease tend to be at a much higher risk of having diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia.
What This Means For You
This information reveals that taking care of the teeth isn’t just crucial for your oral health, but your overall health as well. Armed with these facts, how should they affect your day to day behavior?
Thankfully, you probably already know about the best ways to take care of your teeth. It all starts with consistent brushing and flossing at home. You should brush at least twice a day for two minutes each and floss once. Of course, this should only be one part of your oral health regimen, as routine trips to your dentist are just as important. Your dentist will be able to clean your mouth much deeper than you can at home and spot potential dental problems that are easy to miss.
Together, these efforts will keep the bacteria in your mouth under control so it can’t enter your bloodstream and impact your wellbeing. In the end, you’ll have a beautiful smile and you’ll drastically reduce your risk for developing serious diseases, which in medicine is what we call a “big win-win.”
About the Author
Dr. Gregory Sawyer is a general, restorative, and cosmetic dentist based in Los Gatos, CA. He always considers his patients’ overall health when treating them so he can maximize the effectiveness of their dental care. He currently practices at the Los Gatos Dental Group, and if you’d like to learn more about everything you’ve just read, Dr. Sawyer can be reached via his website right here.