As you navigate our website, you'll notice that we often stress the importance of the connection between your mouth and the rest of your body. If you are looking to focus on your health this new year, you must start with your mouth.
"The mouth is the gateway to the body," says LPD's newest general dentist, Dr. Minsoo Yeo. "What happens in your mouth happens in your body. Oral health is more than just healthy teeth – it includes the health of your gums, throat, and the bones around the mouth. It also determines your ability to speak, smile, taste, chew, swallow, and show facial expressions."
How is oral health connected to overall health?
Like many parts of the body, your mouth is teeming with (mostly harmless) bacteria. Thankfully, if you have healthy gums, they will create a tight seal around each tooth and prevent bacteria from passing through and entering the bloodstream. Unfortunately, when you do not consistently brush and floss, bacteria can build up and lead to oral infections, like gum disease. If left unchecked, gum disease can affect the tissues and bone that support your teeth – the most common reason adults lose teeth.
Additionally, bacteria that enter your bloodstream can cause infection, injury, and inflammation. Once in the bloodstream, bacteria from the mouth can travel to any other system in the body. Conditions that can be caused or complicated by an oral infection include IBS, diabetes, weight gain, cancer, Alzheimer's, and cardiovascular disease, increasing your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
"Oral health is especially important for expecting mothers," says Dr. Yeo. "Severe gum disease can increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Oral bacteria in the mother's bloodstream can release toxins that reach the placenta and interfere with baby's growth while also affecting the triggers that induce labor."
What are the signs of gum disease?
You may notice one or some of these warning signs, or you may not have any signs of gum disease at all - this is why it's important to see your dentist regularly. Treatment of gum disease is most successful when it's caught early.
· gums that bleed when you brush or floss
· gums that are red, swollen, puffy, or tender
· bad breath that doesn't go away
· pus between your teeth and gums
· feeling that your teeth are loose
· a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
· a change in the way your partial dentures fit
How can I protect my oral health?
"To maintain a healthy mouth and body, it's important to keep your oral microbiome balanced," advises Dr. Yeo. "Building healthy habits can support your overall wellness and discourage disease."
· Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.
· Floss daily.
· Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
· Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary food and drinks.
· Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if bristles are worn.
· Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
· Avoid tobacco use.
"And don't forget to contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises," advises Dr. Yeo. "Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health."