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Oral Health Guide

Oral Health for Total Health: Your mouth is a window to your overall health
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Most people don’t realize that brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups do more than keep your teeth clean and cavity-free. Studies have shown that one’s oral health is directly connected to their overall health. The risk of heart disease, for example, can double for people with severe periodontal (gum) disease.

The Journal of the American Dental Association found that pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to have a baby born prematurely.

Additionally, people with Type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to develop gum disease, and when you add smoking to the mix, the chance of developing gum disease increases almost 20 times!

Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.
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What conditions may be linked to oral health?

Your oral health might affect, be affected by, or contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.
  • HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Tooth loss before age 35 might be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other conditions. Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include Sjogren’s syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth — and eating disorders.

Top Ten Tips for a Healthy Smile

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. In the morning and night is always easy to remember.
  • Floss in addition to brushing. Flossing loosens plaque between teeth, where the toothbrush cannot reach.
  • Get regular dental checkups. Dental professionals are capable of removing tartar from your teeth. You cannot remove tartar on your own at home. Additionally, your dental professional can identify and treat small problems occurring in your mouth before they become larger ones.
  • Limit sodas, coffee, and alcohol. Limiting these beverages is important for reducing tooth decay and discoloration.
  • Visit your dentist before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy. You may reduce your risk of having a baby born prematurely by controlling gum infection.
  • Put out the cigarette. Smokers are seven times more likely to develop periodontal disease, and tobacco products are a major risk factor for over 75 percent of oral and throat cancers. There are 30,000 new cases of oral cancer each year. The five-year survival rate for oral cancer is about 50 percent.
  • Increase your calcium intake. Adults who consume at least three servings of food rich in calcium each day have significantly lower rates of periodontal disease, a leading cause of tooth loss.
  • Wear a mouthguard if you play contact sports. Mouthguards help cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Limiting sugary food left on the teeth may reduce tooth decay and discoloration.
  • Consider using an electronic toothbrush. Many brands of battery-powered toothbrushes have a timer—so you won’t underbrush—and a vibrating or spinning action that encourages you to brush softly.