MANILA, Philippines - Fact: there is more bacteria living in your mouth than there are people living in this earth.
No amount of brushing and flossing can change that, but don’t fret because most of that bacteria is harmless. A combination of good oral care and your body’s immune system can keep the harmful bacteria at bay.
Use the proper toothpaste and cleaning techniques that will target bacteria build up, especially in between your teeth.
However when oral hygiene is neglected, your mouth is not the only one that suffers. When bacteria and plaque build up in the areas between your teeth and around your mouth, your gums become prone to infection and your immune system can be seriously compromised.
Over time, acid in the plaque causes gum disease (periodontitis) and inflammation and the bacteria in your mouth can affect the rest of your body.
Gum disease and diabetes
The link between periodontitis and diabetes is particularly strong because weakened and inflamed gums affect the body’s ability to process and utilize insulin (the hormone that converts sugar into energy).
Furthermore, the relationship between periodontitis and diabetes is chicken-and-egg. Diabetes can also be the cause of poor gum health. High sugar levels create the perfect environment for cavity-causing bacteria to grow and then cause gum infections.
The good news? You can manage your oral health to prevent more serious harm.
Research has even shown a link between gum disease and heart problems. Statistics have shown that up to 91% of patients with heart disease also have periodontitis, while in contrast, 61% of those with periodontitis don’t suffer from heart disease.
Although poor oral health won’t directly cause you to have a heart attack, some plausible theories state that gum inflammation and cuts in your mouth from dental work can cause the bacteria to enter your bloodstream and infect your heart or other organs.
This is critical because, for example, inflamed lungs can cause inflamed blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attack. This is true especially if you are already susceptible to risk factors like smoking, being overweight, and having an unhealthy diet.
Believe it or not, periodontitis and pregnancy also share health risks. Infection and inflammation affects a fetus’ ability to develop in the womb so researchers are also looking into the link between gum disease in pregnant women and low birth weights of their babies.
Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy can make a mother more prone to develop periodontitis. So as a precaution, pregnant women should undergo a periodontal exam with their dentist to assess whether or not they are at risk.
Conversely, periodontitis can also affect a woman's timeframe to conceive. A study done by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology showed that women suffering from gum disease took an average of 7 months to conceive while women with healthy gums took an average of 5 months.
Osteoporosis and other health concerns
While there is a clear link between the impact of oral health and the rest of your body, it is still a relatively new field of study. Other mouth-body connects have been identified but the links are still somewhat controversial or not fully understood and explained.
Osteoporosis and periodontitis are similar because both diseases have to do with bone loss. Osteoporosis however affects bones in your extremities (arms and legs) while periodontitis affects the jawbone. Although the link is not well established yet, researchers are investigating whether inflammation caused by periodontitis is linked to the weakening of bones in other parts of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis, lung disease, and obesity are also being linked to gum disease. Treating periodontitis has shown to decrease the pain caused by arthritis, while periodontitis may exacerbate the effects of pneumonia and pulmonary disease due to increased bacterial infection. Additionally studies have also pointed out that periodontitis increases in the presence of high body fat.
While the links between mouth and body health are still being examined, it is clear that the secret to keeping healthy starts with maintaining a healthy mouth.
Brush regularly, don’t forget to floss, consult your dentist or physician for regular check ups to keep your mouth free from excess bacterial build up. Also use a toothpaste that specifically targets bacteria build up to help you achieve that in between clean feeling after you brush.
The next time you feel tempted to skimp on your oral hygiene, heed these wise words from Deepak Chopra, “Your mouth is the gateway to your body – and it’s not a very pristine gateway.” - Rappler.com
Although good oral health is a factor in maintaining good overall health, it does not mean that a healthy diet, regular exercise, and check ups with your physician should be replaced by merely using the proper toothpaste or practicing good oral hygiene. Staying healthy and protecting yourself from diseases is a combination of practicing a variety of healthy habits.
Welcome to Rappler, a social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change. Rappler comes from the root words "rap" (to discuss) + "ripple" (to make waves).