Research has shown that the health of your mouth mirrors the condition of your body as a whole. That means, of course, that oral health isn’t just about maintaining an attractive smile and avoiding the embarrassment of bad breath. Instead, it’s about your overall health and well-being. There’s a connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
According to the American Academy of General Dentistry, clues to more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases can show up in your mouth. As a result, your oral health can tell your dentist a lot more than simply whether or not you have cavities or crooked teeth. He or she might be able to tell if you are likely to develop a disease such as diabetes.
Reports also have shown that there is a relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and more serious health issues. These include strokes and heart disease; leukemia, pancreatic and oral cancers; rheumatoid arthritis; and kidney disease. And women with gum disease apparently are more likely to give birth to pre-term, low-birth-weight babies.
Most people visit their dentist because they have cavities, but adults over the age of 35 lose more teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities. In fact, three out of four adults are affected by periodontal disease at some time in their life. To make matters worse, the problem can be managed, but it can never be fully cured. And it’s a transmissible disease that can be passed on to your spouse or children.
The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable. The disease and decay both are caused by bacterial plaque, a colorless film that is constantly formed on your teeth and sticks to them at the gum line. If you brush and floss every day and see your dentist on a regular basis, you can get rid of these germs and help prevent periodontal disease.
Seeing a dentist regularly helps keep your mouth in top shape, of course, but it also gives your dentist the opportunity to watch for developments that just might point to other health issues. A dental exam also can detect poor nutrition and hygiene, growth and development problems and improper jaw alignment.
You can help your dentist help you by providing her or him with a complete medical history. And remember to tell your dentist about any recent health developments, even if they seem unrelated to your oral health.
Here are some ways to practice good oral Hygiene every day:
- Brush for two to three minutes at least twice a day, using fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Eat a healthy diet to provide the nutrients necessary (vitamins A and C, in particular) to prevent gum disease.
- Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, which may contribute to gum disease and oral cancer.
- Exercise preventive care and schedule regular dental checkups – the surest way to detect early signs of periodontal disease.