While some say eyes are the window to the soul...apparently our mouth is a window to our overall health (less romantic I know, but stick with me!) So I've been googling pretty much every possible way to boost my immune system, and one of the lesser known ways I've found is to improve oral health.
We've investigated how a healthy mouth can help boost a healthy body, and set out a summary below from the Oral Health Foundation on how your oral health and general health are connected, and some tips on how to keep your oral health in top condition.
1. Can the health of my mouth affect my general health?
Yes. There are new findings which support something that dental professionals have suspected for a long time: infections in the mouth can be linked with problems in other parts of the body. We know it sounds scary, but there are ways to prevent and manage these risks...so read on.
2. How is my oral health and general health connected?
Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — don't worry, it's mostly harmless. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause disease.
Typically the body's natural defences and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Also, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralises acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.
Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases. And certain diseases, such as diabetes, can lower the body's resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.
3. How could bacteria in the mouth affect my lungs?
We know it sounds far fetched, but apparently bacteria in the mouth can affect lungs - when out of control, and in older people. Bacterial chest infections are thought to be caused by breathing in fine droplets from the throat and mouth into the lungs. This can cause infections, such as pneumonia, or could make an existing condition worse.
People with gum disease have more bacteria in their mouths and may therefore be more likely to get chest infections. This particularly affects frail, elderly people who may die from pneumonia caused by breathing in bacteria from their mouth. Good oral hygiene for this group of people is therefore particularly important.
4. What signs should I look out for?
Visit your dental team (FYI - dentists in the UK such as national dental company Smileright are now open even during lockdown if you need to book an appointment!) if you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, which can include:
- Inflammation of the gums, causing them to be red, swollen and to bleed easily, especially when brushing.
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth.
- Regular mouth infections.
5. Do I need to tell my dentist about any changes to my general health?
YES! Sorry - we need to be emphatic here! Always tell your dental team about any changes to your general health. It is especially important to tell them if you are pregnant, or have heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or have ever had a stroke. You also need to tell them about any medicines you are taking as these can affect both your treatment and the health of your mouth.
6. What are some top tips to prevent gum disease?
Regular teeth brushing to remove plaque
Although there is some evidence that gum disease runs in families, the main cause is the plaque that forms on the surface of your teeth. To prevent gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day by brushing, and by cleaning in between your teeth.
At SmileTime, our Natural Charcoal Teeth Whitening Kit can help to remove plaque build up on your teeth. Recent medical studies and doctors confirm that Activated Charcoal has an enormous surface area that is dotted with the numerous nooks and crannies that draw in and trap toxic substances including stains on teeth. The charcoal also works to whiten teeth by removing surface stains when brushed on.
A recent study has shown that people who stay fit and healthy are 40 percent less likely to develop tooth-threatening gum infections that could lead to gum disease. It also found that not exercising, not keeping to a normal body weight and unhealthy eating habits made a person much more likely to get advanced gum disease. If you are serious about your health - and your teeth - you will need to exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet and keep to a normal body weight.
7. What are some top tips to keep my teeth and gums healthy?
Good oral health boils down to good general health and common sense. The best ways to prevent oral health problems are to:
- brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day
- floss at least once a day (one of the most beneficial things you can do to prevent disease in your oral cavity)
- have your teeth cleaned by a dental professional every six months
- avoid tobacco products
- follow a high-fiber, low-fat, low-sugar diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables
- limit sugary snacks and drinks
Foods with hidden sugars include:
- condiments such as ketchup and barbecue sauce
- sliced fruit or applesauce in cans or jars that have added sugars
- flavored yogurt
- pasta sauce
- sweetened iced tea
- sports drinks
- juice or juice blends
- granola and cereal bars
Good oral health is especially important to groups such as children, pregnant women, and older adults.
So in summary, keep brushing your teeth regularly, avoid sugary foods and become more mindful about how you treat your mouth, and it can help us all lead a healthier life and work wonders for our general wellbeing!
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Please consult your dentist or physician for personalised dental or medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of something you have read on the SmileTime website.