When regularly brushing and flossing teeth, one prevents gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath, and helps to keep teeth as one gets older. All in all, it is a worthy goal in itself. However, some aspects of maintaining good oral and dental health are not that obvious. Good oral health can help us ward off various medical disorders. The risk of health problems such as stroke, preterm labor, poorly controlled diabetes and heart attack can be increased due to an unhealthy mouth. Oral health is connected to our overall health, and it is necessary to understand its importance.
Saliva As A Diagnostic Tool
By simply analyzing a swab of saliva, your doctor can tell much about your body’s health condition and detect early symptoms and signs of a systemic disease such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS (which lead to the production of saliva test kits). Routine saliva tests can show cortisol levels and fragments of some bone-specific proteins, as well as measure hormones, environmental toxins, antibodies indicating hepatitis infections, and illegal drugs.
Saliva As Protection
It is one of our main defence mechanisms against bacteria and viruses (disease-causing organisms). Saliva contains antibodies that destroy viral pathogens, enzymes that destroy bacteria in various ways, and histatins – proteins that prevent the growth of Candida albicans, a naturally occurring fungus. If these proteins are weakened, it may result in oral thrush – an uncontrolled fungal infection.
There are more than 500 different bacteria species in your mouth at any given moment, which constantly create dental plaque that can cause health problems. It can eventually result in teeth loss, but the consequences can extend even further. According to recent research, there is an association between gum infections and cardiovascular problems, preterm labor, and type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease – Gingivitis bacteria are the cause of inflammation in oral cavities, and they may cause inflammation throughout the body, leading to blood clots and clogged arteries. The risk of a stroke or heart attack is increased because of the development of atherosclerotic plagues in your blood vessels (due to oral inflammation).
Preterm birth – The risk of preterm labor may be increased by severe gum diseases. The theory is that the bacteria in oral cavities release certain toxins which travel through the mother’s bloodstream and reach the placenta, then interfering with the development of the fetus. Also, the mother may produce substances that act as labor-triggering, which results in giving birht to a low birth-weight baby.
Poorly controlled diabetes – Diabetes can be more difficult to control if oen has chronic gum disease. Insulin resistance may be caused by oral infections, which results in a disrupted blood sugar control.
Mouth As An Infection Source
Gingivitis is a gum infection that results from plaque buildup along the gumline. The plaque creates an environment for various bacteria to inhabit the space between your teeth and gums. Gingivitis, if left unchecked, can lead to periodontitis or, in the worst case scenario, trench mouth. Trench mouth (acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis) is the most serious type of gum infection. Bacteria that live in the mouth usually do not enter the bloodstream, unless there is a some kind of gum disease that can serve as a point of entry. A healthy immune system does prevent infection and protects your bloodstream from the presence of oral bacteria. On the other hand, if the immune system is weakened, oral bacteria may cause infections in another part of your body due to bacteria in your bloodstream. Thus, keeping a good oral hygiene by regular brushing, flossing, and using the benefits of orthodontics in a timely manner is of high importance.
It is believed that blood testing may be replaced by saliva testing in order for diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes to be diagnosed and monitored. Practice good oral hygiene every day to make a long-term investment in your overall health. Take good care of your mouth also as means of further possible health complications.