A Healthy Mouth Is Good For You
Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums is a worthy goal in and of itself. Good oral and dental hygiene can help prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. Researchers are also discovering new reasons to brush and floss. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical disorders. The flip side? An unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, and poorly controlled diabetes.
What does the health of your mouth have to do with your overall health? In one word, plenty. A look inside or a swab of saliva can tell your doctor volumes about whats going on inside your body.
Your mouth is a window into whats going on in the rest of your body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease a disease that affects or pertains to your entire body, not just one of its parts. Systemic conditions such as AIDS or diabetes, for example, often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.
Bacteria and Viruses
Saliva is also one of your bodys main defenses against disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. It contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens, such as the common cold and HIV. It contains proteins called histatins, which inhibit the growth of a naturally occurring fungus called Candida Albicans. When these proteins are weakened by HIV infection or other illness, candida can grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection called oral thrush.
Saliva also protects you against disease-causing bacteria. It contains enzymes that destroy bacteria in different ways, by degrading bacterial membranes, inhibiting the growth and metabolism of certain bacteria, and disrupting vital bacterial enzyme systems.
If you dont brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth clean, plaque can build up along your gumline, creating an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth. This gum infection is known as gingivitis. Left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. The most severe form of gum infection is called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth.
Long-term gum infection can eventually result in the loss of your teeth. But the consequences may not end there. Recent research suggests that there may be an association between oral infections primarily gum infections and poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preterm birth. More research is needed to determine whether oral infections actually cause these conditions, which include diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
If you didnt already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, teeth and gums, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more. Resolve to practice good oral hygiene every day. Youre making an investment in your overall health, not just for now, but for the future, too.
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