Wellness that’s easy to swallow
Brushing and flossing help keep your teeth and gums healthy, but did you know good oral hygiene can also lead to a healthier body? That’s because bacteria in our mouths can spread to other areas if left untreated—and may eventually lead to serious illness. As if that weren’t bad enough, many viruses are contracted through saliva, so how we care for our mouths is crucial to overall health.
According to Elizabeth Lowery, DDS, of Avery Ranch Dental in Austin, studies link diabetes, heart disease, low weight pre-term birth, and some cancers to gum disease and poor oral health. “Inflammation in the mouth caused by bacteria running rampant has an effect on overall body inflammation, which is a factor in many diseases,” Dr. Lowery explains.
She adds that mouth inflammation makes tissues more permeable and allows bacteria to penetrate the blood stream—where it has access to the rest of the body. Bacteria can then attack vital organs like the lungs, kidneys, or brain. “Diseases which tax these organs are further overburdened by the bacteria, leading to worsening of these illnesses, and even death in severe cases,” Dr. Lowery states.
Poor health and neglected oral hygiene create a vicious cycle, especially when it comes to diabetes. “Research shows that in patients with poorly controlled diabetes, the incidence of periodontal disease is higher. The end result may even be earlier loss of some or all teeth,” warns Shannon Roberts, DDS, of University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio School of Dentistry.
She explains that the ability to recover is prolonged in diabetes patients. Longer healing times result in an increased risk for infection. The same is true for gum disease. “If the bacteria is allowed to remain there and has a favorable environment for rapid reproduction, then the result could be a periodontal abscess which is highly destructive to the bone surrounding the teeth. If allowed to progress, this abscess could spread to other areas in the body like the heart, blood, and brain,” she adds.
Babies and children who instinctively love to put things in their mouth are also at risk of catching viruses like cold sores and fever blisters among others.
The risk for infection in this age group is substantially higher due to their still developing immune system. Dr. Lowery suggests disinfecting toys regularly to avoid some of these culprits.
Regardless of your age, you can help prevent dental disease by remembering Mom’s old advice of brushing your teeth after you eat and flossing daily. Also, visiting your dentist for an annual checkup and twice-yearly cleaning will go a long way in aiding to keep your mouth healthy, which will in turn increase your chances of warding off disease in other parts of your body. Now that sounds like a simple solution for a healthy you.
As always, contact your dentist with questions and concerns.
By Perla Sarabia Johnson