We see the new year as a new beginning. We think this will be the year we are going to eat better, take better care of our bodies and live the life we have always dreamed of.
We all know what goes on in our mouth can have an impact on our health, but are we connecting just how important our mouth really is?
For many people, it isn’t easy to think of our body as one connected system. It is easier to think of ourselves as separate working parts that make up a whole. We think this because it is how we have been taught as children, and it is how the medical community deals with health issues even now. If you go to your doctor with a specific health concern, the symptoms are treated, and you are generally given a pill and sent on your way. Very seldom do doctors utilize a whole-health approach and look at the entire body to find connections between illness and the symptoms being experienced. Unfortunately, the root causes are not addressed, and people all over the world are suffering needlessly. Your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory systems, and the bacteria from your mouth can cause disease in the body.
Let’s take a car as an example.
First of all, we take better care of our cars than we do our bodies. I’d like you to take a moment and imagine your dream car. Picture yourself driving on a beautiful day. You worked hard to afford this car, and you’ll take excellent care of it. You would use the highest quality gasoline and take it to the dealership for regular maintenance. You would wash the outside regularly, vacuum the inside, and make sure the tires are in good condition.
You would do all of this because if you didn’t, your beautiful car wouldn’t be beautiful anymore. It goes without saying that if you put sugar in the gas tank, the car would no longer run. If a tire went flat, the car couldn’t drive.
We seem to understand that taking care of one aspect of our dream car affects how the whole thing will run, and yet we still haven’t made that same connection with our bodies.
You will have many cars in your life, but you only get one body.
Connecting the Dots
When it comes to our health and well-being, it’s crucial to remember that we are connected. From the top of our heads to the tips of our toes, the human body is a complex puzzle, where one part is intrinsically linked to all the others.
In regards to oral health, good dental hygiene involves much more than just your mouth. It is impossible to be fully healthy if your mouth is not healthy.
Oral-systemic health is the idea that oral health is a critical and interconnected component of your overall health and well-being. Studies show that people who have poor oral health are more likely to have other health conditions.
The health of our mouths can directly impact the health of the rest of our bodies, and therefore it is vital that we practice good oral hygiene.
Having regular checkups at the dentist to know the condition of your mouth, even if you aren’t in any pain, will help to ensure our mouths are as healthy as possible.
We also need to practice good oral care at home by brushing and flossing our teeth thoroughly to disrupt the bacteria. It is recommended to brush twice a day and floss at least once per day, and it should take about 10 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but how long would you spend cleaning your new car? Your body is much more critical and will last a lot longer than any vehicle. You can’t just replace it if it breaks down. If you take care of it from the start, it will take care of you.
When it comes to our health, we need to start thinking about the connections within our bodies and realize that what affects our mouth affects our whole health. My goal is to help both patients and providers connect the dots when it comes to oral health to enhance our wellness and increase our longevity. It is finally time to make the connection.
As with our cars, if something goes wrong in one area of our body, it will have a ripple effect on our health as a whole. Many people don’t realize that an issue in our mouths can have detrimental effects on various systems within our bodies.
Dental disease is a silent disease. Cavities and bleeding gums generally go untreated until there is a pain in the mouth.
THE ORAL HEALTH-BODY HEALTH LINK
Gum disease is a very common dental problem, but it doesn’t just affect your gums. Just because it is common does not mean it is normal or ok.
This goes the other way, too. Many oral concerns like sores, swollen gums, and dry mouth syndrome may be signals of a much bigger problem:
Gum disease has been linked to increased risk for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, osteoporosis, leukemia, kidney disease, and some cancers.
If our teeth aren’t cared for properly, we can develop infections and gum disease. If not treated promptly, these infections can travel throughout our bodies and cause a wide range of different conditions. There is a direct link between heart disease, certain types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, prenatal complications, and our oral health. The health of our mouths directly affects the health of the rest of our bodies.
Where’s the pain?
No pain, no problem, Right?
Unfortunately, many people think their mouth is in great shape because there is no pain and end up neglecting it. Far too often, the only reason people visit their dentist is when they are in excruciating pain. At that point, it is usually too late.
In fact, most dental abscesses, diseases, and infections don’t cause any pain at all. Someone can have an infection festering in their mouth for months or even years without feeling even the slightest amount of pain. That infection runs rampant throughout their entire body during this time, wreaking havoc on their health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and our habits, our diet, and our mouth are the main causes.
Take my uncle, for example. He was healthy without any previous health concerns until a routine visit to the physician. His blood pressure was slightly elevated, and the doctor advised him to take a prescription blood pressure medication. He was a heavy smoker and visited the dentist for a checkup, and he found an abscess in his mouth and periodontal disease.
He had no idea his mouth was infected and had zero pain. Yet, his body was under a great deal of stress, working overtime to fight this infection. I watched him lose tooth after tooth. It was later determined he was diabetic. Once the periodontal disease was treated, and his sugar was under control, his gum disease got better. But it was a fine balance to maintain. This was when I knew Periodontal disease was about more than brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly. It truly is a window into the body. We need to learn to listen. Dental disease is preventable if we know what to look for and we take action.
Brad is another excellent example. He went to the dentist for a routine visit. He had been tired, and his bleeding gums were a warning sign. His dentist sent him to his physician, and they discovered a rare form of Leukemia. That dental visit saved his life.
Do you really need to have a healthy mouth to have a healthy body?
You might be surprised to know that the benefits of maintaining good dental health extend far beyond just your mouth.
Infection, health complications, and diseases are linked to problems inside your mouth.
One thing that people often forget is that every part of your body is connected to another part. That means that the health of one area directly affects the health of another. The same is true for the health of your mouth. When you have infections in your teeth and gums, they can quickly spread to other areas of your body, leading to new infections and other health complications.
The Mouth is the Gateway to Your Body
Anything that enters your mouth has access to all other areas within you. The food you eat goes into your mouth, passes through your throat, and travels down your esophagus to your stomach and intestines, where it is digested. The bloodstream absorbs the nutrients from this food and distributes them to the organs and tissues that require them to function properly.
The same is true for bacteria. Bacteria can build up on your teeth and gums and can lead to infections if not dealt with immediately. When this occurs, the bacteria from your mouth enter your digestive system, travels through your blood, and can lead to a whole host of potentially severe health complications.
Remember: If it’s in your mouth, it can get anywhere inside your body.
Oral health is one of the leading health indicators, along with other indicators of health, diet/ nutrition, and breathing. Good oral health not only enables you to functionally perform as a human being (i.e., speaking, smiling, smelling, eating), but it is also important for communication, human relationships, and financial prosperity. Poor dental health has serious consequences, including painful, disabling, and costly health conditions.
This is especially the case for those who have the biggest obstacles in getting access to dental care – rural and lower-income households. According to the ADA, one in five low-income adults say their mouth and teeth are in poor condition – and one in three of them say the condition of their mouth and teeth affects their ability to interview for a job.
There are many things that impact our oral health, such as diet and hygiene, that are controllable with the right habits. Tooth decay (cavities) is the most common chronic childhood disease, yet it is preventable through healthier choices and good habits. However, without these healthy choices and habits, plaque buildup eventually leads to cavities, gingivitis, or severe gum disease that puts teeth and gums at risk, which then puts other parts of your body at risk also.
Despite the scientific knowledge we now have, there still remains a well-recognized “gap” between the medical and dental professions and the delivery of care across them. The oral healthcare workforce has historically been concentrated in private practice settings where dentists lead teams composed of dental hygienists, assistants, lab technicians, and office personnel. The majority of these practices continue to operate independently of most primary health practices and health systems.
Progress of this system remains a challenge. We are treating the mouth and the body with separate insurance systems and incompatible electronic health records in the coordination of care provided by dentists, physicians, and other providers. A lack of education on this subject continues to be a major obstacle to coordinating care for individuals. This is why you have to be your own advocate for care.
Why is a healthy mouth so important?
Researchers have drawn a causal link between oral infections and a whole range of health conditions that affect your entire body. Illnesses such as heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, complications during pregnancy, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, bacterial pneumonia, and rheumatoid arthritis can all stem from poor oral health. When you take care of your teeth and gums, you help prevent serious health complications and not only keep your smile bright but keep your entire body healthy as well.
Where are the bacteria from?
When you experience an infection, the first thing doctors should consider is where the bacteria are coming from. Too often, physicians prescribe antibiotics to treat infections without digging deeper into finding their root cause. Unless there’s an open wound on your skin, the bacteria has almost certainly entered your system through your body’s front door: your mouth.
If any other part of the body were bleeding, we would seek treatment to stop it. But when we see blood on our toothbrush or in the sink, we explain it away as no big deal. Yet it is a big deal, and one of the first warning signs there is an imbalance in the body. Bleeding from anywhere in the body is not good and should not be ignored.
How can I keep my mouth healthy?
Fortunately, keeping your mouth healthy can be easy! One of the most important things is to know what you need and how you can do it. The one almost everyone knows about is cleaning your teeth thoroughly every day. Most of us don’t spend nearly enough time caring for our teeth. A few minutes a couple of times a day isn’t sufficient to remove all of the bacteria and plaque that builds up in your mouth. You need to ensure that you spend some quality time flossing or water flossing between each tooth and cleaning every surface in your mouth. You need to remove food particles and bacteria to keep your mouth free from dental infections.
You also need to visit your dentist regularly. They can check your oral health and help you devise a routine that will prevent periodontal disease and other infections.
When it comes to having a healthy body, you need to start with your mouth. Good oral hygiene can go a long way toward preventing systemic diseases. Education on the importance of oral health and how it can affect every system within the body is very important, especially for our kids. When dentists and doctors begin working together, we will be able to proactively prevent diseases and be more efficient at treating a wide variety of different conditions. This will not only improve our health but the health of the entire world.
You may not know this, but the health of your mouth can impact the health of your body. Your mouth is full of bacteria, and if you don’t properly care for your teeth, the bad bacteria can enter your bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body. That’s why we created a guide with five questions you should ask yourself. These questions can lead to eye-opening oral health information that could be connected to other health issues in your body.
Instead of separating and treating the symptoms of the individual systems in the body, making these connections, testing early and looking at the root cause, and treating our bodies as a whole will go a long way to living longer, healthier lives as we age.
Sharing knowledge, doing better, and making better choices will change not only our future but also the future generations to come. We ultimately live with the consequences of our choices and decisions, good or bad.
What will you choose?
Ask yourself these questions: Click here for the list.
It all starts with knowledge and sharing that knowledge; a healthy mouth is a healthy body and a longer, happier, healthier life!
If I can be of assistance, schedule a 10-minute call with me: Schedule here.