Maintaining good oral health can reduce your chance of tooth decay, improve the appearance of your smile and help prevent periodontal disease. However, oral health is not just important for the health of your teeth. These are four of the ways oral health affects overall health.
1. Problems in the Mouth May Indicate Problems Elsewhere in the Body
Systemic diseases, such as diabetes or AIDS, sometimes cause lesions in the mouth or other oral health issues. Visiting a dentist in Florence AZ for regular dental exams can often detect early signs of serious diseases that affect the whole body.
2. Saliva Can Protect Against Bacteria and Viruses
There are antibodies and enzymes in saliva that attack viruses, such as the common cold, and bacteria. Proteins, called histatins, are also found in saliva. These proteins help reduce the growth of the fungus Candida albicans. Overgrowth of Candida, which may occur in people with weakened or suppressed immune systems, can lead to a fungal infection called oral thrush.
3. Saliva Can Be Used for Medical Diagnostics
Saliva testing can be useful for detecting bone loss, some types of cancer, illicit drugs, toxins, hepatitis, HIV and other substances or diseases. Advances in the technology used to test salvia may make it possible to replace blood tests with salvia testing for many conditions. Salvia testing is usually painless and less invasive than many other diagnostic tests.
4. Poor Oral Hygiene Can Cause Infections
When people fail to brush and floss their teeth thoroughly or frequently enough, the bacteria in their mouth forms a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque buildup in the mouth can create a fertile ground for bacteria growth. This bacteria growth can cause a gum infection known as gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis can lead to severe gum infection, called periodontitis, which can develop into a worse infection known as acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis or trench mouth.
In some cases, bacteria in the mouth can enter a person’s bloodstream. For people with healthy immune systems, this is usually not a serious problem, but people with weakened or suppressed immune systems may experience infections, such as infective endocarditis.
Regular dental exams and cleanings combined with good oral hygiene can prevent many oral health problems and avoid the risk of an oral health condition spreading elsewhere in the body. Additionally, maintaining your oral health can make it easier to assess your overall health and detect problems developing elsewhere in the body.