How A Healthy Mouth Supports A Healthy Body.
Over the past few decades, research has made enormous strides in revealing the mysteries of the body. For example, we once thought that the brain was dormant during sleep. Now we know that the brain is actively sweeping out toxins and resetting the body to function efficiently and effectively during sleep. This has shown us just how important it is to receive ample, quality sleep.
As a dentist, I’ve been especially excited about research findings that show how intricately connected your oral health is to your overall health.
In our bodies, we have good bacteria, such as in the gut. The good guys help to keep certain bodily functions operating smoothly. However, some bacteria is not good. This is the bacteria that causes a cut to become inflamed and infected.
Our mouths are full of bacteria, which is why twice-daily brushing is advised. By keeping oral bacteria to manageable levels, we avoid an over-accumulation that can create problems, many of which can extend far beyond the mouth.
When oral bacteria accumulate to certain levels, they thrive off healthy tooth enamel and gum tissues. An early sign of this may be gum tenderness, swollen gums, and seeing blood in the sink when you brush.
These symptoms are early warning signs of periodontal disease. If treated promptly, you can restore your gums to a healthy state without great expense or tooth loss. However, if gum disease is allowed to progress, it can lead to a long list of problems in and beyond the mouth.
Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss and has been linked to a number of serious health conditions. Research has found a correlation between the bacteria of periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, erectile dysfunction, some cancers, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
The culprit lies primarily in the ability of this infectious oral bacteria to trigger inflammatory reactions in the body. Because the bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues, it is able to travel throughout the body and create systemic inflammation.
Research has found that this inflammation is at the root of many diseases. For example, diseased tissues of gum disease have shown remarkable similarities to the tissues of arthritic joints, having an almost identical makeup. (https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/comorbidities/gum-disease/ra-and-gum-disease.php)
It makes sense that our immune system can only combat just so much bacteria. Think about the number of colds you’d get if you rarely bathed or washed your hands. By removing dirt and bacteria from our skin, we are helping to minimize the levels of bacteria our systems must overcome.
So, wouldn’t the same be true for bacteria in the mouth?
Because gum tissues are soft and moist, they readily absorb what comes into the mouth. This is one of the reasons that smoking poses such a challenge to gums. The toxins of cigarette or cigar smoke (as well as from ‘chew’ tobacco) serve as the entry point for these toxins and are easily absorbed by the oral tissues.
The gums make up the majority of our ‘oral cavity’ and provide a blanket over the bone structures that support our teeth. Yet, they take an enormous amount of abuse. By brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and having 6-month checkups, you can enjoy a healthier smile, fewer cavities, avoid gum disease AND place less of a load on your overall immune system.
To illustrate just how beneficial oral care is to your overall health, one study monitored men who had moderate gum disease and elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels. Over a two month period, subjects were treated for their gum disease.
The study showed a significant improvement of PSA levels following periodontal treatment even though the men did not receive treatment for their prostrate problems. (http://thedaily.case.edu/treating-gum-disease-reduces-prostate-symptoms-cwru-researchers-find/)
Enjoying the benefits of a healthy mouth are certainly worth the mere minutes a day that proper brushing and flossing take. Recommit yourself to your at-home oral hygiene regimen and be sure to have exams and cleanings every six months. The small investment you make may be a preventive measure in health challenges that are complex and serious – some even deadly.
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