Your Costa Mesa, CA dentist discusses keeping your teeth and body healthy during oral systemic health week
We are approaching the most sugar-intensive holiday of the year. Perhaps that is why the week of October 20 through October 26 is dedicated to Oral Systemic Health awareness. While many people feel twinges of guilt contemplating the effects that Halloween candy binges might do to their teeth, they often overlook the impact that oral health has on their entire bodies and wellbeing.
What is oral systemic health?
If the concept is new to you, this is probably your first question. Systemic means something relating to the entire system, which in this case is the body. Oral systemic health is the relationship between the health of your mouth, and your overall health. You already know that a toothache can diminish your quality of life, and that some dental problems impact your ability to chew food properly, speak clearly, and smile confidently. However, that is just the beginning.
Oral disease – or health – affects your body in more ways than you might imagine. In fact, even the scientific community does not yet fully understand the breadth and scope of the oral systemic connection, as ongoing research regularly uncovers new evidence and information.
This connection goes two ways. Oral disease may negatively impact your overall health – and systemic disease can negatively impact your oral health. The proven links between oral health and whole health include:
- Diabetes – It has long been known that diabetics have a high risk or periodontal disease and other infections, especially if the condition is not well controlled. In recent years, research has indicated that people with severe periodontal disease may be more likely to become diabetic, and that improving oral health may make it easier to control the diabetes.
- Heart disease – Multiple studies have found a link between oral and coronary diseases. The nature of this association and reason for it are not fully understood. However, researchers theorize that the combination of oral bacteria entering the blood stream and the systemic effects of chronic inflammation contribute to blockages or diseases of the coronary arteries.
- Complications with birth and pregnancy – Research has found pregnant women with severe oral disease to have a higher rate of complications.
- Alzheimer’s disease – Individuals with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments may have difficulty remembering and performing necessary steps of oral hygiene, increasing the risk of dental problems. Some recent research also indicates a potential connection between oral bacteria and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Arthritis – Extensive research has linked chronic oral infection with joint problems. Additionally, a pair of independent studies presented at the European Congress of Rheumatology in 2012 found correlations between a higher number of missing teeth and an increase in arthritic symptoms or decrease in effectiveness of arthritis treatment. Again, the connection goes both ways. Joint disease and other mobility problems can make effective brushing and flossing challenging or impossible.
- Pneumonia – Oral bacteria easily travel through the airway to the lungs. This may increase the risk of Pneumonia or other respiratory diseases.
- Many more – This is not a complete list. There are many other health conditions that have potential or confirmed connection to oral disease.
Proactive is pro-health
What can you do?
- Basic oral hygiene – It only takes a about two minutes to thoroughly brush your teeth, and a few more moments to floss. Make time and take the initiative to do it right. If you aren’t sure of the best technique, ask us. If you have mobility problems or other health conditions that make brushing and flossing difficult, ask us for advice about alternate techniques or specially designed implements to make it easier.
- Good nutrition and healthy habits – Living tissues, including those in the mouth, need nutrients to survive and thrive. A well-balanced nutritious diet – especially one high in immune-boosting antioxidants – is good for oral and whole health.
- Take control of your health – Don’t postpone seeing a dentist for treatment of periodontitis or other oral disease. Similarly, if you have other health conditions, talk to your primary care provider or an appropriate specialist.
- Customize your oral health practices – There are general guidelines for oral care, such as how long and how often to brush. However, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Some people need more frequent hygiene appointments, some need assistance cleaning their teeth, some have unique dietary needs… The list is virtually endless. That is why it is important for you to discuss your medical history, any known systemic conditions, and any unique oral care challenges you face. We will work with you to develop a customized plan for any needed dental treatments, and help you develop home care habits that work.