In the post-pandemic era, people across all ages have undoubtedly become much more aware and alert when it comes to their health and wellbeing; which means they are now visiting the doctor’s clinic more often, even if it is for a routine health check-up. However, when was the last time you paid a visit to your dentist? Many of us would probably end up scratching our heads to remember and answer that question. Why? Well, it’s because, most of us believe that oral care is of less importance than general medical care. However, this notion is ridiculous and far from the truth!
On the contrary, oral care is just as important – as it essentially acts as the window to one’s overall health and wellbeing. In fact, there’s no way we can (or should) separate oral care from our overall health and wellness regime. Optimal oral health has been often enlisted by experts to be among the top 10 key health indicators in an individual. And clinical studies have shown that the state of our teeth, gums, and other parts of the oral cavity bear vital cues to various health issues one may face. As per the Academy of General Dentistry, over 90 per cent of all the common systemic health conditions include at least one or more oral symptom(s).
The mouth serves not just as the primary entry point for the body, but also as a favourable habitat for bacterial growth. Typically, a person has up to six million bacteria present in their mouth. Most of these are harmless, as long as we regularly maintain good oral hygiene. Whereas failing to do so for a prolonged period, allows these microorganisms to multiply and get onto the bloodstream, and then eventually spread to other parts of the body, which in turn can make us fall seriously ill.
It may surprise (or rather shock) you furthermore to know that poor oral health has been found to contribute, either directly or indirectly, towards the development or worsening of several critical health problems, such as:
- Cardiovascular Issues: When harmful bacteria from the mouth travels to blood vessels elsewhere within the body, it can cause blood vessel inflammation and small blood clots, thereby making us susceptible to the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular disorders. Research has pointed to the fact that people with gum diseases are at twice the risk (as compared to those without these diseases of facing a heart attack or any other serious cardiovascular event. Neglecting one’s oral health can also lead to a disease known as bacterial endocarditis, where the inner lining of the heart chamber (endocardium) becomes infected and inflamed.
Respiratory Issues: Inhaling oral bacteria from infected teeth or gums into the lungs is linked to significantly increasing one’s risk of developing certain respiratory infections like Pneumonia, as has been shown through various studies. At the same time, it may also exacerbate existing respiratory disorders such as Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The likelihood of developing such respiratory health issues due to poor oral hygiene is usually higher among those with an already weak or compromised immune system.
- Pregnancy-Related Issues: Owing mainly to change in eating habits and hormonal shifts while being pregnant, many women become prone to dental cavities and gum infections, which in turn may adversely affect the baby’s health in the womb. Some studies from the recent past have also shown a close association between gum diseases and giving birth to premature or low-birth-weight babies. Therefore, adhering to great oral hygiene routine during the perinatal period is essential for improving the overall health of both the mother and the baby.
In addition to what has been mentioned above, poor or suboptimal oral health is believed to play a role in triggering other serious ailments such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Sjogren's Syndrome (an immune system disorder), certain eating disorders and certain cancers (Oral Cancer being the most common). On the other hand, conditions such as Diabetes and Osteoporosis are often seen as a major factor leading to the deterioration of one’s oral health.
Final Verdict. And Discussing the Solutions!
All in all, the correlation between our oral health and overall health is undeniable, and must not be overlooked. Indeed, our mouth has so many tales to tell about what’s happening in our body at large! So, we can safely say that taking adequate care of your oral health is the key to allowing the rest of your body to keep smiling as well.
Now that you realize this, you might be wondering – “How do I go about maintaining good oral health, which in turn shall aid my overall wellbeing?” The first step to that end is to embrace a good oral care routine at home. Yes, investing your time, efforts and money in preventive oral care shall definitely help you in the long run to stem the progression of various types of oral diseases and infections, and thus significantly reduce the overall health risks associated with them.
The basics of a good preventive oral care routine are simple – brush your teeth twice a day using a clean and effective toothpaste, regularly floss your teeth and rinse them with a mouthwash, avoid sugary foods and tobacco consumption, and pay close attention to any sort of troubles arising in your teeth or gums. Pair these habits with visiting your dentist routinely at least once in every six months, and most of your oral health woes are likely to go away soon!