Good oral hygiene habits not only protect the health of your mouth, they also help maintain your overall health. An increasing number of studies link a series of illnesses and diseases to oral health. While researchers have documented some connections better than others, a common link is bacteria.

Portal to Your Body

Think of your mouth as a portal to the rest of your body. What lives and grows in your mouth does not necessarily stay there. While most of the bacteria in your mouth are harmless, some cause tooth decay and infection. When left unchecked, these bacteria can enter your body through airways or your blood stream. Bacteria can cling to droplets of moisture, which you can then inhale into your lungs. Once in your lungs, these bacteria can cause pulmonary infection and pneumonia. More commonly, bacteria can enter your blood stream through the gums. Gum disease largely enables this process.

Gum Disease and Your Overall Health

More than 80% of American adults have some form of gum disease. The disease has two basic stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the earlier stage of the disease and is associated with inflamed, bleeding gums. Periodontitis, an acute form of the disease, is very serious and can lead to tooth and bone loss. The oral-systemic connection is strongest when associated with gum disease. This is because bacteria can easily enter the blood stream when gums are inflamed and bleeding. Gum disease is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, premature birth, and low birth weight. Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry discovered people with gum disease doubled their chances of having a heart attack and tripled their chances of suffering a stroke. In some cases, the oral-systemic connection works interchangeably. Diabetes, for example, can be worsened by gum disease, but is also a contributor to the development of gum disease, because it lowers the body’s immune system.

Schedule an Appointment

While researchers are still exploring how maintaining good oral hygiene can improve your health, we certainly know that it can’t hurt. Remember to brush twice daily and floss once a day. You should also have your teeth cleaned every six months.

To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at Riverside Dental Group, please call our office at (951) 689-5031. We have six dental offices serving Southern California.