You know that brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist regularly helps to keep your teeth clean and reduces the risk of cavities. But did you know that the health of your mouth also affects your overall health? Adopting a good oral hygiene routine can help minimize the risk of some chronic conditions or help you better cope with medical conditions you already have.
Take a look at some of the overall health benefits of good oral hygiene.
Reduced Risk of Gum Disease
Gum disease, or periodontitis, develops when bacteria and plaque build up on the gums and teeth roots. The plaque irritates and inflames your gum tissue, making the gums more likely to bleed. As gum disease progresses, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss.
Brushing your teeth helps to remove plaque from the surface and flossing removes it from the gums. During a routine dental cleaning, a hygienist or dentist will also remove plaque and tartar, reducing your gum disease risk.
Improved Heart Health
While the exact link between oral health and heart health isn't fully understood, there appears to be a connection between keeping your teeth and gums healthy and reducing your risk of heart disease.
When you practice good oral hygiene, you reduce the risk of having an infection spread from your mouth to your bloodstream. The same bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Regular dental checkups and a solid at-home oral care routine help to keep that bacteria at bay.
Stable Blood Sugar Levels
There also seems to be a link between gum disease and diabetes. Notably, people who have diabetes often have gum disease. Diabetes can make it harder for the body to fight infections, such as periodontitis, which might explain the link. Also, gum disease can make it more challenging to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Working to protect your mouth, whether you have a diabetes diagnosis or not, can help you manage your blood sugar and lead a healthier life.
Oral health might play a part when it comes to your brain's function and memory. Notably, one study found that bacteria that contribute to gum disease can move from the mouth to the brain. Once in the brain, the bacteria affect nerve cells, eventually causing memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Other studies have found that people with healthy teeth and gums tend to perform better on memory tests than those with gum disease.
Gum disease causes inflammation in the gums. If not controlled, the inflammation can spread to other areas of the body. For example, some studies have found a connection between people with gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an auto-immune disease that attacks the joints. The way RA inflames and damages the joints is similar to the way gum disease inflames and destroys the gums.
Your oral hygiene can also affect your lung function. Oral bacteria can travel from your mouth to your lungs, where it can develop into pneumonia or other types of respiratory disease. You'll breathe easier if you stick to a regular brushing and flossing schedule and see your dentist regularly.