True or false: my oral health doesn’t affect the rest of my body.
If you answered “true,” you may need to rethink your dental routine. Your teeth, tongue, and gums play a significant role in keeping your body running properly; poor oral health can lead to severe problems with your digestion, which can negatively affect your health overall.
Your Teeth and Your Health
Go ahead, eat all the fruits and veggies you want—if your teeth aren’t healthy, the rest of you won’t be, either. Digestion begins in the mouth, before you ever swallow your food. Human teeth are evolutionarily designed to break down omnivorous foods properly, from grains to plants, to meats and cheeses. Once you’ve sufficiently chewed your food, it’s passed through the esophagus to your stomach and intestines, where your stomach acid breaks down waste and the lining of your organs absorbs nutrients.
In terms of overall health, chewing your food properly is as important as eating foods that are good for you; if your teeth can’t properly break down food—for example, if you have teeth that are misaligned, missing, infected, or otherwise compromised—your digestion will suffer.
Additional Risk Factors
Beyond simply not chewing and processing your food properly, bad bacteria living in an unclean mouth travel through your blood and digestive system, and can carry infections to other parts of your body.
- Cardiovascular disease and endocarditis: Research suggests that bacteria and infection in your teeth or gums can be spread through your bloodstream and damage your heart.
- Premature birth: Gum disease in pregnant women has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Links to Illnesses
Dental problems can also be indicative of or result from other bodily illnesses; for example, people who suffer from diabetes or HIV often have oral problems like mucosal lesions and gum disease. Simultaneously, proper oral care has been shown to improve a person’s control of their diabetes and improve their immune system.
Think of your oral health as a window into your overall health: if your teeth and gums aren’t healthy, you’ll likely suffer from other health problems like digestive or cardiovascular issues; poor oral health can also be a symptom of a more serious disease.
How Can I Take Better Care of My Teeth?
To prevent common dental-related illnesses, maintain proper oral hygiene, and always contact your doctor right away when a new dental issue arises. Catching diseases early can involve even a routine checkup with your dentist. While smoking and chewing tobacco are likely the greatest risk factor for developing diseases like oral cancer, follow these key steps to ensure you’re keeping the rest of your body healthy by way of your mouth.
- Brush, floss, and rinse with fluoride rinse daily
- Visit your dentist regularly for routine checkups and screenings
- Eat a healthy diet, and rinse or brush after eating
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or once the bristles start to fray