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Health Connections Between Your Mouth and Body

Health Connections Between Your Mouth and Body
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BY TERESA TUTTLE

If you want to feel good, look good and maintain excellent total body health into your golden years, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes. In fact, research shows a strong connection between the mouth and the rest of the body. An unhealthy mouth may cause or worsen serious medical problems such as heart disease, respiratory illnesses and diabetes. Taking steps to care for your teeth and gums now can go a long way to help you thwart serious diseases while helping you maintain good health for many years to come.

The mouth-body connection.

 Studies show that gum disease, or periodontal disease, is linked with many common systemic diseases in the body. Whether you’re 15 or 50, gum disease should not be ignored. Bleeding gums, visible root surfaces and loose teeth are not normal symptoms, so delaying treatment could put you at risk for serious medical conditions such as these:

  • Research suggests that the relationship between diabetes and gum disease is a two-way street. Gum disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Conversely, infections in the mouth can disrupt blood sugar levels and cause diabetes.
  • Heart disease. Studies show that several types of heart disease may be linked to inflammation in the mouth. One theory suggests that bacteria from gum disease can enter your bloodstream and travel through your arteries to your heart, causing serious problems with the cardiovascular system.
  • Respiratory illnesses. Infections of the respiratory tract are also linked to oral health, according to ongoing research. Bacterial infections in the chest, such as emphysema and pneumonia, are believed to be caused by inhaling droplets from the mouth and throat into the lower respiratory tract.

Keep teeth healthy as you age.

If we know that oral health is important for overall health, and vice versa, then one way to prevent health problems as we age is to take good care of our mouths. Halting the progression of gum disease and adopting excellent oral hygiene will not only reduce the risk of oral infections and inflammation in the mouth, but also lower your chances of developing other serious illnesses. Here are a few simple ways to promote healthy teeth and gums. 

  • Make good oral hygiene a priority. To keep oral health problems at bay, it is important that you practice excellent oral hygiene at home. This includes brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and flossing daily. If you have decreased dexterity due to arthritis or other age-related issues, consider using an electric toothbrush or floss holder to make cleaning your teeth and gums easier.
  • Eat foods that are good for your body and mouth. By making wise food choices, you can help promote a healthy mouth and body. Limit processed foods and foods high in sugar, as these encourage decay and plaque build-up. Instead, choose healthier options including raw fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Give up unhealthy habits. People who use tobacco products and drink alcohol are at a greater risk of developing gum disease and oral cancer than non-smokers and non-drinkers. Cutting back on, or even stopping altogether, one or both of these habits can help you avoid many health issues in the future.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. One of the best ways to take care of your mouth as you get older is to visit your dentist for routine cleanings and check-ups. Your dentist can remove debris from your teeth that regular brushing and flossing can’t. Notify your dentist of any changes to your mouth including bleeding gums, persistent bad breath, loose teeth, gums that pull away from teeth or changes in your fit of dentures. Dentists can also identify problems in your mouth, and recommend appropriate treatment before it becomes a more serious  health issue.  

 

Healthy mouth, healthy life.  

Bottom line: Many of us take our teeth for granted, but our mouth plays a significant role in the proper functioning of the whole body. By adopting healthy habits at home, making better decisions about food and seeking regular dental care, the aging population can keep their teeth, stay healthier and look better than ever. 

Teresa Tuttle is Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a multi-specialty group dental practice in Chicago’s western suburbs. With more than 30 doctors and 50 years of practice experience, Grove Dental’s offices stay on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.

 

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