For too long our oral health has been considered to be a separate entity to our overall health. The typical belief is that having good oral health means having a nice smile, and that tooth decay or gum disease are an inevitable part of life. The reality is, in fact, that oral health and general health are inexplicably linked, the appearance of your teeth is only one aspect of good oral health, and there is nothing inevitable about oral diseases. For too long we have ignored the importance of good oral health and its significance in safeguarding general health and well-being.
Imagine, on your hand you have a wound. It’s about the size of your palm and has been there for many years. It doesn’t heal but you’re not worried. It doesn’t hurt and the bleeding every time you wash your hands has been happening for years.
Sounds crazy right?
The ‘wound’ (infected and inflamed gum tissues) in a mouth with moderate to severe gum disease is equivalent to a wound about the size of the palm of your hand. If we had a wound that size on any other part of our body, we wouldn’t just ignore it. We would instinctively know that that non-healing wound was not good for our general health. Yet when it comes to oral disease, for some reason we respond differently, often dismissing the symptoms of disease such as bleeding when cleaning our teeth as unimportant, insignificant or even ‘normal’.
It’s time to make our mouth a part of our body again. Understanding the role oral disease potentially has to play in our general health and well-being is key to improving both our oral health and safeguarding our general health and well-being for our lifetime.
Research continues to demonstrate the existence of relationships between oral disease, inflammation and general health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, pre-term and low birth weight births, pneumonia and respiratory (lung) disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The list of conditions likely affected by the inflammation associated with oral disease continues to grow each year.
While research continues to determine exactly how the relationship between oral disease and general health conditions occurs, it is clear the presence of oral conditions can negatively impact on the treatment and management these health issues. Even for those not suffering from the types of health issues previously listed, the presence of oral disease can affect many aspects of daily life, from personal relations to self-confidence and to the ability to consume and enjoy food.
Given the significant impact the mouth can have on our overall health and well-being, it is essential to know how to achieve and maintain good oral health. Continuing to refine your home oral hygiene routine throughout your lifetime, having regular maintenance appointments with your Dentist and Hygienist and avoiding risk factors are all crucial factors for good oral and whole-body health.
Good oral hygiene habits ideally formed from an early age include brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, flossing once daily and using a fluoridated toothpaste. It is the bacteria we try to disrupt or remove each time we brush and floss that are ultimately responsible for oral disease such as tooth decay and gum disease. It is the inflammation that results from these oral infections that is ultimately linked to general health conditions.
Supplementing your oral care routine with biannual examinations and professional scale and cleans is the best way to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. Dental examinations allow for early detection and treatment of any oral disease, resulting in a more favourable outcome. Even with good personal oral hygiene habits, professional cleaning is essential for removing the inevitable build of plaque and calculus.
Our food and lifestyle choices may also put our oral health at risk. Healthy diets that are low in sugar and high in fruit and vegetables is a great way to protect our mouth and body. Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol while not consuming tobacco at all are additional ways to reduce risk.
Medications required to manage some general health conditions can reduce saliva flow and cause xerostomia or ‘dry mouth’.? Saliva is our natural defence against tooth decay. It plays an important role in oral cleansing and neutralises decay causing acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.? Lack of saliva thus increases the risk and severity of oral disease.
Next time you visit your Medland Dentist or Hygienist, be sure to discuss any changes to your general health and the medications you are taking.? Our knowledge of your general health concerns and lifestyle factors assist us in making individual oral health recommendations that recognize this important whole-body approach to care. It is for this reason that we ask that you update your medical history every year using our?paperless ‘Clinipad’ system.? We will also verbally ask you if you have had any changes to your general health or medications each time you attend an appointment.?
Medland Dental has a long history of supporting our patients to achieve optimal oral health through our commitment to providing unbiased and uncompromising dentistry in combination with genuine patient care and attention, that is understanding, warm and gentle. It’s time to make our mouth a part of our body again. Understanding the role oral disease potentially has to play in our general health and well-being is key to improving both our oral health and safeguarding our general health and well-being for our lifetime. We look forward to sharing more about oral health with you this August! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates from Medland Dental during Dental Health Week 2021.