If the eyes are the window to your soul, then your teeth are the window to your health. While this might seem like a far-fetched connection, it might be more reasonable than you think. Your mouth is the entry to your digestive and respiratory systems, after all. And illnesses in one part of the body tend to show symptoms in the mouth as well. Consider that without proper dental hygiene, the bacteria in the mouth may rapidly reproduce. As a result, this can lead to oral infections like gum problems and cavities.
Research suggests that inflammation and oral bacteria linked with periodontitis (a serious form of gum problem) may play a role in certain ailments. Furthermore, diseases like HIV/AIDS and diabetes may reduce the body’s defense to certain infections. In turn, this may make dental health complications more serious.
What conditions have connections to oral health?
Oral health may greatly be affected, affect, or contribute to different conditions and ailments including:
- Cardiovascular diseases. Clogged arteries, heart disease, and stroke may have associations with the infections and inflammation which oral bacteria may cause. This condition causes the bones to become brittle and weak. Thus, it may have connections with tooth loss and periodontal bone loss.
- HIV/AIDS. For people with HIV/AIDS, oral issues like severe mucosal lesions are more likely.
- Pregnancy and birth. Serious, untreated gum infections have links with lower birth weight and premature birth.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Before reaching the age of 35, those who suffer from tooth loss may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This condition lessens the body’s defense to infection which may result in gum problems. Gum disease is more prevalent to diabetics.
What else does your teeth say about your health? Let’s look through the most common complaints and see.
Pale gums: It’s one thing to have bright red gums. Usually, that’s a sign of periodontal disease. You either get periodontal disease due to poor oral hygiene or as a symptom of another ailment. It’s another thing to have pale gums.
Of course, these pale gums might come from another source. If you’re an avid user of home whitening kits, you might have noticed your gums turning a little white post-application. But if the paleness lingers, it might be a sign of something else. If these gums are paired with a sore feeling and a swollen tongue, have yourself checked—you might have anemia.
Dry mouth: The thing about a dry mouth is you never really know why you have it in the first place. It’s either a symptom of an underlying condition—like Sjögren’s syndrome—or the result of certain medications. If your dry mouth is caused by the former, this means that your immune system attacks the glands and ducts that produce saliva and tears. This doesn’t just leave you with a dry mouth, but dry eyes as well.
If, however, your dry mouth comes from the medications you take, consult your doctor or dentist. You might be able to adjust your course accordingly.
Gum inflammation: The easiest way to spot a problem in your oral health is to see if your gums are swollen. And much like a dry mouth, this gum inflammation can fall under several categories. Ailments like diabetes give your body a harder time fighting back against illnesses. Because they have a compromised immune system, patients with diabetes are more likely to get a more severe case of gum inflammation.
Aside from diabetes, chronic gum inflammation could also signal poor oral hygiene. So before seeking help for another ailment, it’s best to get yourself checked first.
Lack of enamel: If there’s enamel wear on the insides of the teeth, what your teeth say about your health is that it suffers a gastrointestinal problem or an eating disorder. It’s because you tend to throw up a lot when you have these ailments. In eating disorders like bulimia, in particular, the acid wears at your teeth with every routine expulsion, causing this lack.
How to Protect Your Oral Health
Good oral hygiene plays a very vital role in shielding one’s general health. For instance:
- Proper brushing at least two times per day.
- Daily flossing
- Consuming a well-balanced form of diet and refraining from between-meals snacks.
- It is advisable to replace toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or if necessary especially if the bristles are already shredded.
- Schedule dental checkups and professional cleaning preferably every six months.
How Children’s Oral Health Affects Total Health
It may sound cliché, but it’s true. To give your kids a healthy life, start with their mouths. I’m not trying to pull your leg here—there’s a plethora of evidence that shows dental hygiene and life expectancy are related. So if your kids’ dental health affects their overall health, it’s best to give them a good one.
What happens in your mouth inexplicably affects the whole body. Your mouth is one of the channels that lead to the rest of your innards. Any problems that occur in there can cascade into the rest of the body.
If dental hygiene and life expectancy are related, knowing how they’re connected can help prep your kids for a better dental future. And, of course, potentially set them up for longer life. Here’s how your child’s dental health affects their overall health:
Bacteria from the mouth can be pulled into other parts of the body
Your mouth isn’t the first thing that encounters environmental bacteria. Your skin takes home that prize. However, your mouth does tend to accumulate bacteria. We need to eat, after all, and while advances in technology make it easier to ensure what we eat is safe, it’s near impossible to get rid of bacteria 100%. That’s why we have body systems dedicated to fending off disease. If sanitary measures don’t catch them, your immune response surely will.
There are times, however, that the amount of invaders in your mouth overtakes your immune response. Maybe the food you eat comes from unclean sources. Perhaps you have a diet that’s high in sugar, which bacteria feed on. Or maybe your oral hygiene isn’t up to par. Regardless of the reason, this override can fill your mouth with bacteria and give it all sorts of diseases. These diseases can make their way to your bloodstream, which in turn circulates to other parts of your body. (And in the case of aspiration pneumonia, you literally inhale these germs.)
Fortunately, all you really need is a solid oral hygiene routine to counteract this problem. With each brush-and-floss session, you skim away portions of this bacterial build-up, making it easier for your immune system to do its job.
The more teeth you retain, the longer you tend to live
Aside from how much bacteria your mouth carries, how many teeth you keep throughout your life is also a crucial factor in longevity. A study by Friedman and Lamster supports this, noting how many teeth you lose can impact one’s life expectancy. In the study, they said how those elders aged 100 years lost less teeth at age 65-74 than those who did not reach their maturity. But what does tooth loss have to do with life expectancy?
For one, your teeth serve a valuable purpose in your day-to-day activities. A full set of teeth helps you consume your food correctly so most of it doesn’t end down the toilet. They also help you speak certain words—the English language, in particular, has a slew of dental sounds in its vocabulary.
Of course, a good portion of tooth loss comes from poor oral care, barring any genetic mishaps, cancer, or dental injury. Keeping your child’s teeth clean and healthy, then, is a great way to prevent any of these mishaps from happening—and maybe give them a shot at longevity in the process.