It wasn’t all that long ago when people believed their brains were dormant during sleep. We now know that our brains are busy throughout the night doing housekeeping that fine-tunes it’s ability to serve as an efficient central control system.
The body is a remarkable structure. For it to function at its best, we’ve learned that we have to eat a healthy diet, get ample sleep, avoid polluting it with toxins from cigarettes and drug use, and to keep it reasonably active.
Yet, an emerging factor in having good overall health is how significantly our oral health impacts it. For years, researchers have tracked the close connection between oral bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease with serious health problems far beyond the mouth.
While early research showed a correlation between certain strains of gum disease bacteria and diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, they are now able to zero in on what triggers it.
Rather than go into ‘microbiomes’ and other complicated details, remember this: The health of your mouth influences the health of your body. As a dentist, this makes perfect sense.
Realize that your mouth is mostly made up of soft, absorbent tissues. Your teeth are actually a small part of the ‘oral cavity,’ although that’s what is most visible when we look in the mirror. These tissues are the first point of contact for most anything that enters the body.
Unlike the nose, which can filter out a certain amount of pollutants, the mouth takes a direct hit from whatever enters it. For example, while people assume the lungs get the brunt of cigarette smoke toxins, it is the mouth that gets the initial dose.
The mouth does a pretty good job of combating problems. But, like anything, it does have its limits. For all the bacteria that accumulates in the mouth, we must remove a certain amount each day for it to manage bacteria levels effectively.
When oral bacteria overload occurs, however, the oral tissues become inflamed. This inflammation is a normal reaction of the immune system, with the white blood cells crying out, “We’ve done all we can! Every man for himself!”
Oral bacteria causes periodontal disease and leads to cavities. However, when oral bacteria enter the bloodstream (through tears in gum tissues), the potential for problems elsewhere may lead to far worse than a cavity.
To give an example, a study of people suffering with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) showed that tissue samples taken from arthritic joints had an almost identical makeup to tissues of gum disease. And, to emphasize the connection further, it was found that successful treatment of gum disease could improve symptoms experienced by arthritis sufferers. (www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-100/issue-11/for-your_practice/periodontal-disease-and-rheumatoid-arthritis.html)
Every week, I read about new findings that connect oral health to our overall health. As a matter of fact, many cardiologists now advise patients to have thorough periodontal exams and necessary treatment prior to surgical procedures. Ob-Gyns are also advising their pregnant patients to tend to their periodontal health based upon links that indicate risks for preterm, low birth weight deliveries. (www.nytimes.com/1996/10/09/us/gum-disease-in-pregnancy-linked-to-premature-low-weight-babies.html)
In the U.S., about a third of adults do not brush their teeth every day or ever floss. These actions require about 5 minutes of one’s time on a daily basis. Having twice-a-year dental checkups and cleanings provides a ‘clean slate’ of sorts, making it easier to manage oral bacteria levels between visits. Yet, some adults assume these visits are optional and only go when something hurts.
Your commitment to oral health could be one of the best ways to avoid other serious problems from developing in the first place. Reconsider your at-home oral hygiene routine and ask us how you can optimize your time at the sink. The pay-off may be bigger than you realize!
If you’ve delayed regular dental visits, we want you to experience the comfortable, respectful environment we provide to our patients. We’ll make sure you enjoy a positive experience while learning easy ways to achieve and maintain a healthy, confident smile.
Call 910-254-4555 to schedule.