Oral Health Affects Your Overall Health – “You are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning when you learn just how important oral health is to your overall physical health.
You know that eating lots of sugary, acidic foods and not brushing and flossing regularly could lead to poor oral health outcomes. Perhaps you’re even mentally prepared for oral surgery at some point in the future.
What you might not know is that good oral health is closely correlated with good overall health. Taking good care of your teeth and gums reduces your risk of dental and gum tissues that are known to contribute to cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, and pregnancy complications.
Let’s take a closer look at how oral health influences physical health and vice versa.
What Are the Most Common Oral Health Issues?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, common oral health problems include:
- Tooth Disease (Cavities): A vast majority of American adults have had at least one cavity. Fortunately, one cavity won’t condemn you to a life of chronic health problems. But the more you have over the years — and the less work you do to treat their underlying causes — the more your physical health will suffer.
- Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease): Periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Left untreated, it can cause problems far beyond the mouth and may contribute to another serious oral disease: oral cancer.
- Oral Cancer: Don’t be fooled by oral cancer’s “good” five-year survival rate. It’s a serious, life-changing disease that requires aggressive intervention.
What Health Conditions Are Caused By Poor Oral Health?
Poor oral health is correlated with a number of health issues elsewhere in the body. The connection isn’t always clear — it’s common to have poor oral hygiene for years before other issues develop — but the causative link between oral health and general health is well-established.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Poor oral hygiene is correlated with the presence of harmful bacteria that may increase cardiovascular inflammation and raise your risk of stroke, heart attack, and other serious problems.
- Heart Inflammation (Endocarditis and Pericarditis): Those harmful bacteria can migrate to the heart and cause inflammation in the heart wall — a potentially life-threatening condition.
- Pregnancy Complications: Gum disease is correlated with poor outcomes in pregnancy, including premature birth and low birth weight.
- Respiratory Disease: When harmful oral bacteria migrate to the respiratory tract, they can cause persistent infection. In the lungs, they can cause pneumonia, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.
What Health Conditions Can Cause Poor Oral Health?
Poor oral hygiene isn’t always a root cause of chronic health issues. For many patients, it’s the other way around: Chronic health problems contribute to oral health issues, which in turn can worsen existing ailments or encourage new ones to develop.
Preexisting health conditions that may cause oral health problems to include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Age-related cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease
- Certain autoimmune disorders
Brush and Floss Your Way to Better Health
You can brush and floss your way to better mouth health, even if it’s been years since you took oral hygiene seriously.
Can you brush and floss your way to better overall health too? Can brushing twice a day with proper technique and flossing three times a week or more really improve your cardiovascular health, reduce general inflammation, and help you control your Type 2 diabetes?
It’s not quite that simple. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of your teeth and gums. Oral health is a crucial component of general health, and statistically speaking, good oral hygiene correlates with better health outcomes overall.
Anyway, what do you have to lose but a little time in the morning and evening? That’s a small price to pay to feel your best year after year.