Systemic Health and Oral Health: The Link You Can’t Afford to Ignore
It is easy to think of your mouth as somehow being separate from your body, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Both are closely connected and have been the subject of numerous clinical studies. As we continue to learn about this association it has become obvious that if you would like to enjoy good general health then you cannot afford to ignore your dental health.
What’s more, your dental examinations provide a valuable insight into your general health. It can be possible for your dentist to identify early signs and symptoms of systemic diseases. An earlier diagnosis may help to improve the long-term prognosis for your systemic health and in some cases, earlier treatment may be more effective and less invasive.
The Connection Between Your Mouth and Body
Your mouth and body are connected by pathways that carry blood, oxygen, and nutrients to where they are needed. At the same time, these pathways may also carry disease which is why a strong immune system is so important. Unfortunately, your mouth can easily become diseased if you neglect your oral care.
It is estimated that the mouth is home to between 500 and 700 species of bacteria and not all are benign. These anaerobic bacteria thrive in the warm, damp, nutrient-rich and oxygen-deprived environment in your mouth, and some strains can cause gum disease (periodontal disease).
Your Immune System and its Effect on Dental and General Health
When these bacteria build up, for example, through failing to brush and floss thoroughly, they will begin to infect your gums, causing periodontal disease. This triggers an immune response from the body as it tries to fight the infection. One side-effect of this immune response is inflammation. As your gums become more inflamed, they start to bleed, allowing disease-causing bacteria in your mouth to enter your bloodstream, from where they can travel throughout your body. As they do so, these bacteria can create more sites of inflammation which will negatively affect your general health.
Did you know people with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease? Your risk could be even greater if you have high cholesterol. Periodontal disease has also been linked to Type II diabetes. As mouth bacteria enter the bloodstream, the subsequent inflammation can make it harder to control blood sugar levels. Diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar tend to have more glucose in their saliva which is the perfect fuel for these bacteria to thrive. Clinical studies have associated the inflammation created by periodontal disease with some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and dementia.
How Regular Dental Care Can Help
Regular checkups will quickly detect the early signs of periodontal disease, at which stage it can be easily treated. If required, your dental team can provide valuable advice about oral care at home, including practical help with brushing and flossing. Dentists can also check for other changes to your overall health, for example, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, GERD and vitamin deficiencies.
Your dental checkups are every bit as important as your medical health checks. As an added benefit, looking after your dental health could help to reduce your medical bills.
Call us today to schedule your checkup.
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