Oral Health… it’s Not Just a Great Smile

dentist holding model teeth

More and more, researchers are learning about the intimate connections between the health of our mouths and the health of our entire bodies. With these discoveries, the critical importance of oral health care is becoming more and more apparent. 

How is this connection made?

In a word: bacteria. As you may know (and Clackamas Smiles patients, who are far ahead of the curve in health awareness, are sure to), our bodies have trillions of bacteria in them. We are literally walking ecosystems for organisms too small to see with the naked eye! 

These bacteria are collectively called our microbiome, and for the most part, they are a friendly group. They help with different jobs around our body, like digestion. But everything in an ecosystem needs to stay within healthy boundaries. Regular oral care, like brushing and flossing, keeps bacteria in our mouth under control– without it, bacterial growth results in cavities and gum disease.

When the balance is lost, the effects can be widespread

Poor oral hygiene creates an environment in which oral bacteria thrive– and our whole bodies may feel the effects. There are several known disease states that have been found to be linked to bacterial growth in the mouth:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Research is continuing to show connections between the inflammation caused by gum disease in the mouth and cardiovascular problems like narrowed arteries or stroke.
  • Endocarditis. This condition results from infection to one of the muscle linings of your heart, the endocardium. This infection can occur when bacteria from your mouth enter your bloodstream and then attack the endocardium of the heart.
  • Pancreatic cancer. More research is ongoing about the link between pancreatic cancer and oral health, but several studies have come up recently with the same results.
  • Alzheimer’s. Similarly, links between Alzheimer’s are being found by researchers, but studies into the exact cause are ongoing. 

But there’s more

The link between oral and systemic health goes both ways. Sometimes patients have a pre-existing condition that impacts their oral health. These can certainly be varied, but it’s important to be aware of. If you have a condition or are taking certain medications, it is critical to take extra precautions to protect your oral health!

Some conditions and diseases that impact oral health are:

  • Pregnancy. Fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy can cause dry mouth, and this harms teeth! Saliva plays an important role in cavity prevention. Ongoing dental care is critical during pregnancy. Be sure to talk to Dr. Suess if you are experiencing pregnancy-related dry mouth.
  • Diabetes. Because diabetes impacts the body’s immune system, oral infection occurs more easily and can be more severe than in patients without diabetes. Informing the team at Clackamas Smiles about your diabetes will help us provide the best preventive care to keep you free of diabetes related gum disease.
  • Osteoporosis. Some research is showing that patients with osteoporosis— a disease that weakens bones– can be linked with oral bone and tooth loss.
  • Medications. Like pregnancy, some medications can cause dry mouth, which puts you at a higher risk for cavities and gum disease. Be sure to speak with your doctor about medication side effects; medications that may cause this are decongestants, antihistamines, some pain killers, and some diuretics, as well as others. If you are on a medication that causes dry mouth, let Dr. Suess and your team at Clackamas Smiles know.

And, all this is actually good news

Because we know– and are increasingly being shown by research– that oral and systemic health are linked, we have an opportunity to improve every aspect of our health! We now know that brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your favorite Clackamas, OR dental clinic will not only keep your smile healthy, it will protect other systems in your body as well, like your heart and your mind.

So schedule your next appointment with Dr Suess now. We look forward to seeing you!

Photo Credit: wwarby via Compfight cc