The Link Between Oral Health and General Health

Did you know that your oral health and overall health are connected, or that issues in your mouth can affect the rest of your body and vice versa?

The mouth and whole-body health relationship are not often widely known to Australians, which is why it is so important to understand that oral health is integral to one’s general health and wellbeing.

Without a healthy smile, a person’s ability to comfortably and safely eat, speak and socialise can be compromised. For some, this can then result in pain, discomfort and even embarrassment. However, when you have a healthy mouth, the body has a higher chance of remaining healthy. 

The Mouth Is the Gateway to the Body  

Like all other areas of the body, the mouth contains (mostly harmless) bacteria and germs. The mouth is also the entry point to the digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria and germs can cause illness or disease. 

When bacteria and germs originate or gather in the mouth, they can quickly spread through the bloodstream, affecting other parts of the body. When bacteria reach the heart, for example, they can adhere to damaged areas and cause inflammation. 

Typically, the body’s natural defences and good oral health care control the growth and spread of bacteria. The inverse is true as well - poor oral hygiene can result in an accumulation of bacteria that can lead to oral infections, tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease and other health concerns. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), many Australian children and adults experienced these dental conditions and contributed to 4.5% of non-fatal diseases in 2015. 

Fortunately, practising good oral hygiene is possible for people of all ages, especially when you have a licensed dentist’s support, guidance, and expertise. When you practice good oral hygiene, you can have the opportunity to catch any oral health conditions before they start or progress, keeping your overall health in great shape. 

What Are the Impacts of Poor Oral Health?

Common oral diseases affect the gums and teeth, such as tooth decay and gum disease

Tooth decay can cause pain and discomfort, and it can affect eating, speaking and sleeping, says Better Health . If decay progresses and is not treated, the tooth can become infected and affect the gums. Tooth decay can also lead to tooth loss or require a filling or extraction if it’s severely damaged. 

According to recent studies, Australian adults 15 years and older had an average of 11.2 decayed, missing and filled teeth. In 2017-2018, there were 72,000 hospitalisations for dental conditions that could have been prevented with earlier treatment. 

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) states that gum disease affects one in three Australian adults and could increase the risk of cardiovascular events, Type 2 diabetes and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Also, the latest research across various studies asserts that those with advanced gum disease have a higher risk of a heart attack than those without it. 

The AIHW states that oral disease can lead to lasting physical and psychological disability . For example, tooth loss can reduce the teeth’s ability to chew food, which can compromise nutrition. Several chronic diseases , including stroke and cardiovascular disease, is also associated with poor oral health.

Gum disease is an effect of poor oral hygiene, and heart conditions are effects of gum disease. Everything in the body is connected, and one facet of a person’s health can greatly influence another, sometimes in ways we don’t often realize.  

Benefits of Good Oral Health and Hygiene

Having good oral health allows your teeth, gums, oral bones and muscles to remain strong, reliable and functional. There are many aesthetic and functional benefits to having good oral health and getting preventive dental care, so here are just a few:

  • Good oral health and hygiene reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 
  • Preventive dental care can save you time and money on treatment. 
  • You can have and maintain a smile you are proud to share with the world. 
  • It freshens your breath and keeps your teeth shiny, white and stain-free.
  • Good oral hygiene promotes gum health and reduces the risk of tooth loss. 
  • It lowers your risk of stroke, heart attack, Type 2 diabetes, and more. 
  • It reduces your chance of possibly needing a root canal or oral surgery in the future. 
  • Good oral health promotes healthier pregnancy and stronger fertility. 
  • You are more likely to keep all your natural teeth instead of needing dentures or dental implants to replace missing teeth. 

The benefits of having excellent oral health and practising proper oral hygiene are seemingly endless. For more information about your unique oral health or specific conditions, please contact your dentist or physician. 

How to Care for Your Oral Health

As studies have shown, healthy teeth and gums promote a healthy body and lower the risk of heart disease and other medical issues. Seeing your dentist is essential for having a healthy smile that remains functional and pain-free. Not only can personalised dental care deliver ideal results for your smile, but it also promotes a healthier life. 

To protect your oral health, it is recommended to practice good oral habits every day

  • Brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste. 
  • Floss between your teeth every day. 
  • Use mouthwash to remove food debris left behind after brushing and flossing. 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid sugary foods and beverages. 
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles are worn. 
  • Schedule regular dental exams and cleans with your dentist. 
  • Avoid using tobacco and smoking. 
  • Contact your dentist if any oral health issues arise. 

 Ultimately, taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall general health. Your smile and your body may thank you in the future. A healthier smile can lead to a healthier, happier life!

If you need to schedule an appointment with a dentist or want to see your doctor to discuss your oral or overall health, the fastest and easiest way to search for and book healthcare appointments online is through MyHealth1st.

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