Maintaining good oral health is important to ensure your teeth and gums will last you a lifetime, but keeping your smile beautiful isn't the only reason to brush and floss regularly. Research has found that oral health is linked to physical health in a variety of surprising ways. This overview demonstrates how the health of your teeth and gum tissue is related to the health of your overall physical body.

How are Oral Health and Physical Health Related?

The mouth is an entry point for bacteria and other microbes that are in the air we breathe and on the food we eat. Once ingested, that bacteria gathers in the mouth, mixing with food particles, such as sugar, to form an acid that causes tooth decay and gum disease. If enough bacteria gathers in the mouth, it will eventually slip past the gum line and enter the bloodstream. This is how bacteria is passed from the mouth to the rest of the body, contributing to the risk of developing digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular, and other health problems. This process can be interrupted by following the oral hygiene practices that your dentist recommends. By cleaning your teeth regularly, you'll eliminate most of the harmful bacteria in your mouth. In addition to reducing the likelihood of developing gum disease and tooth decay, you'll also lower the chances that oral bacteria will make it to the rest of your body.

How Can You Practice Better Oral Care Habits?

Fortunately, your oral health is something you can control. You should begin by flossing once per day and brushing your teeth at least twice per day. If you have a sugary snack, or eat a sweet meal, be sure to brush immediately afterward. When you do brush, use a soft-bristled brush and lightly polish each tooth by holding the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. You should also be sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride in it to provide an extra layer of protection for your teeth and gum tissue. Don't rinse with water. Instead, rinse with a fluoride-based mouthwash and don't drink or eat anything for at least 30 minutes afterward.

Visiting your dentist twice per year is equally important. In addition to providing you with a professional tooth cleaning, the dentist will examine the health of your teeth and gum tissue. This is helpful in diagnosing a problem before it gets worse. If you have cavities, the dentist will suggest getting it treated before it gets more serious. If you have sleep apnea or struggle with nasal breathing, the dentist may recommend getting fitted for a FAGGA in Palmdale CA or your particular locale. Dealing with dental issues as they develop will help you avoid more costly and discomforting treatments down the road.

What Oral Health Problems Can be Symptoms of Physical Illnesses?

Once harmful bacteria finds its way into your bloodstream and airway, it can affect a number of different biological systems. In fact, several different studies have focused on how poor oral health leads to an increased risk of disease and infection. For example, research has shown that bacteria that gets into the bloodstream from the mouth can make its way to the heart. Once there, it causes an infection to the inner linings of the valves and chambers, causing a condition called endocarditis. Studies have also shown that bacteria causes inflammation of the cardiovascular system, which may lead to stroke, heart disease, clogged arteries, and related problems. Since the respiratory system can also be affected by an overgrowth of oral bacteria, people with poor oral health can be at a greater risk of developing pneumonia and other respiratory problems. For women, the risk of having a baby with low birth weight and birth defects is greater, because respiratory difficulties will prevent a fetus from getting the oxygen it needs to develop properly.

Just as some conditions are caused by poor oral health, tooth decay and gum disease can be a symptom of physical illnesses. For example, osteoporosis is a condition that results from the body's inability to generate new bone. As a result, you may experience bone loss in the jaw, or experience tooth decay even though you brush regularly. People who have tested positive for HIV also exhibit tissue lesions in the mouth as a symptom of that disease. Gum disease has also been found to be a result of the weakened immune system that diabetics experience. In general, taking better care of your oral health will make it easier to spot these early symptoms of other medical conditions.

Although more research is needed, we already know that physical health impacts oral health and vice versa. By taking better care of your teeth and gum tissue, you may be able to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria that the bloodstream carries from your mouth to the rest of your body, which will help you stay healthier. In that way, implementing better oral hygiene practices can help you protect yourself from developing physical illnesses in the future.

Author's Bio: 

Katie earned a BA in English from WWU and loves to write. She also adores hiking in redwood forests and photography. She feels happiest around a campfire surrounded by friends and family.