We all know that taking care of our oral health is important in ensuring that our teeth remain healthy, shiny, and functional for a lifetime. We also know that taking care of our overall health helps to give us the best possible life we can have. What we often overlook is the ways in which those two things interact. As it happens, oral health is a big part of our overall health and it impacts the rest of our bodies in surprising ways. In particular, the interaction between oral health and our immune systems is worth discussing, as the interplay between them reveals much about what’s happening with our health and our bodies.
It’s helpful to understand the position our oral health occupies in our bodies. As the beginning of our alimentary or digestive system, the oral cavity connects both directly and indirectly to every other major system in the body. As food or drink move through the digestive system, they carry bacteria and other microorganisms with them. In addition, bacteria present in the mouth have access to the circulatory system and may spread through the blood. Some of these bacteria or other microorganisms are helpful, some are benign, but many are harmful. So with that in mind, what can they do to our bodies?
As it turns out, there are a number of health issues that are linked to oral health, and in particular gum disease, also known as gingivitis or periodontal disease. While the full impact of such infections on the rest of the body isn’t entirely understood, it can include the following:
- Endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body spread to those tissues and infect them. While the connection isn’t fully understood, we do know that gum disease and other oral infections can lead to endocarditis if left untreated.
- Cardiovascular disease. While we’re still learning more about the connection between them, heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth complications. Gum diseases in their advanced state, called periodontitis, have been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Pneumonia. Some types of bacteria responsible for oral infections can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
Any of these can be a serious health issue, and many of them can lead to additional or lasting complications. So with that in mind, what’s the best way to support oral health and thus support the entire immune system?
As it turns out, the basics of healthy living vis a vis oral health are pretty simple. It starts with a healthy diet combined with regular and effective brushing and flossing routine. Cleaning your teeth at least twice a day goes a long way towards preserving and enhancing oral health. Building upon that, regular visits to the dentist for exams and cleanings are a must in ensuring that your teeth and gums remain healthy and that your smile stays bright. If it’s time for a dentist visit, get in touch today. Our friendly and helpful staff will make an appointment to get you into the office and start your journey towards a bright, healthy smile.