Did you know your mouth is a window to your overall health? Poor oral hygiene habits can cause long-term complications throughout your entire body, and several systemic diseases show their very first symptoms on your gums, teeth, and tongue.

Researchers are still exploring the long-underappreciated link between oral health and overall wellbeing. As dentists, we see the connection firsthand every day!

Here’s what to know about keeping your mouth — and body — in top shape.

Periodontal Disease is correlated with health problems

Periodontal (gum) disease is the most common chronic inflammatory condition in the world. It’s characterized by swelling, pain, and redness around the base of your teeth. Gingivitis is a common mild form — but advanced cases can result in damaged bone, receding gums, and even tooth loss.

Patients with periodontal disease require more frequent, gum-focused cleanings to keep bacteria at bay.

How is periodontal disease linked to other health problems?

The inflammation and oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease puts patients at an increased risk for other long-term health problems. Some of these conditions include:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Endocarditis (infection in the inner lining of your heart)
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy complications and pre-term birth
  • Pneumonia

In one study, four types of bacteria known to cause periodontal disease led to increased cholesterol and overall inflammation throughout the entire body. What’s more — these bacteria were able to travel from the mouth to vital organs like the lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Certain health conditions put your mouth at increased risk

While oral health problems can cause long-term complications throughout the rest of your body, they can also be the first sign that something is already wrong.

In fact, hundreds of Americans find out they have diabetes each year because they’re diagnosed with gum disease before any other symptoms develop! This is because their body’s reduced ability to fight off infection makes it easier for bacteria to take root in their mouths.

Beyond diabetes, several other health problems can increase your risk of oral inflammation, sores, and excess bacteria. These include:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Eating disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimers
  • Rheumatoid disease
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Cancer
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

Researchers are still investigating the precise links between these conditions and oral health problems. Some are believed to be because of chronic inflammation, while others are associated with certain medications.

How can you keep your mouth healthy?

The key to maintaining your oral — and overall — health is to practice regular daily habits:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss once a day
  • Use mouthwash at least a couple of times per week
  • Replace your toothbrush every two to three months
  • Limit your sugar consumption
  • Rinse your mouth with water after drinking acidic or sugary beverages

It’s also important to get into the dentist for regular checkups and routine cleanings every six months. These visits give your dentist the opportunity to catch potential problems early, when they’re easiest to treat. Get in touch with us today to schedule your next appointment. We can’t wait to see you!