We are taught since a young age that our bodies are one big, connected system, and that things that seemingly might have nothing to do with one another are actually closely intertwined. This is maybe best observed through our mouths: not only is our oral hygiene and health vital to our overall health, but our mouth is a very clear window to the health situation of our bodies, giving us signs of disease that is happening somewhere deep within our bodies. So let’s see exactly how well we know our bodies and how we should be taking care of ourselves.
One of the most common problems with oral health is gum disease, which can manifest itself as sensitive gums, bleeding when flossing or brushing teeth and painful spots when chewing food. This is inflammation of the gums, and it’s a bacterial imbalance that can easily spread to the rest of your body. The most alarming part of this is that if the bacteria spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, you have increased risk of heart disease, stroke, preterm birth and even several forms of cancer. Within the mouth itself, the way our bodies react to the bacteria will tear through your gum tissues which can cause even more inflammation, tooth loss and trouble eating. The way to combat gum disease is to firstly improve your oral hygiene and secondly strengthen your entire immune system. If you start noticing symptoms, talk to a doctor to see what’s the best way for you to start combating this issue.
Most of our health issues and solutions come through our mouth – more specifically, our diet. But if we have issues with our teeth, it can often affect our diet, and vice-versa. If you have irregular teeth that don’t allow you to properly chew your food, or even make you feel too self-conscious to eat in public, it can ruin your diet, and therefore your health. After noticing that I couldn’t eat properly because of misaligned teeth and that I was avoiding food that needed to be chewed, I went first to a nutritionist and then to my local Chatswood orthodontist to help fix the issue. Turns out I was on the edge of malnourishment, and all because of bad teeth. But it goes the other way around as well. Eating processed foods that are high in sugar introduces a lot of acid to our teeth which then starts to corrode them, possibly making our gums inflamed. A healthy diet and proper oral hygiene is the first line of defense, and it’s something that all of us can do.
Worldwide, we have a spike in diabetes. This is mostly due to poor diets, but there is a very clear, two-way connection to our oral health, which is also the best example of this connection. Inflammations that happen in the mouth negatively affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, which, if not addressed, can lead to diabetes. Inflammation prevents the body from utilizing insulin, a key hormone that turns sugar into energy. But also, high blood sugar (caused by the lack of insulin) creates the perfect environment for bacteria and infections to grow, creating a problematic loop. But there is an upside to all of this: the tight connection between the two issues mean that by getting one under control, you will effectively be decreasing the other one as well.
While oral health and cardiovascular health aren’t linked as directly as the previous example, understanding their connection can give us big red flags and alert us to any conditions that might arise. Nearly 91% percent of patients with heart disease have gum inflammation. We’ve already talked about how the inflammation that starts in the mouth can reach other organs through the bloodstream and increase risks, but here it’s more important to focus on the symptoms. Both heart disease and gum inflammation have the same risk factors: excess weight, smoking and an unhealthy diet, to name a few. This means that if you notice an issue with gum inflammation, you might want to reconsider your lifestyle choices, because they might be affecting something a lot more important and potentially life-threatening.
Whether or not you are aware of these connections, maintaining good oral health should be a basic priority for all of us, and good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist should be a given.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to health and alternative medicine. In her free time she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.