You may not know it, but there is a significant connection between your mouth and your overall health. During your dental checkup, your dentist will not only be looking for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental issues, but also early indicators of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Sometimes, your mouth can be the first place that symptoms of a whole-body disease appear.
Many people are surprised by what your mouth can tell about your general health. Plus, it is a two-way relationship between your mouth and your body: oral disease can cause further health issues in your body and poor general health can lead to oral health problems.
In this article, we’ll dive into more on the connection between your oral health and your body, oral signs of possible health issues, and how to best maintain your oral hygiene to help protect your overall health.
Your Oral Health Reflects Your Body’s Health
Your oral health can’t be separated from your overall health. Your primary care physician and dentist both play vital roles in keeping your body–and your mouth–healthy.
When it comes to that role that your dentist plays, they will not just be looking at your teeth but will be thinking of your mouth and your body as a whole. Not only can your mouth show signs of other diseases, but it can also indicate if you’re missing specific nutrients in your diet and unhealthy habits you may have (like smoking).
Some of the conditions and diseases that can affect your oral health include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Mouth (and other) cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Substance abuse disorders
- Pregnancy issues
- Erectile dysfunction
For example, diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, and HIV/AIDS, can lower your body’s resistance to infection. This can make oral health problems worse and take longer to heal. But if caught early, these conditions can then be properly treated at your dentist’s office to relieve the symptoms and prevent any further spread.
Signs of Health Issues That Your Mouth Can Display
There are some signs you can be aware of that indicate an oral health issue but may also point to a general health problem. These include:
- Oral thrush (candidiasis): Sometimes also referred to as just “thrush”, this fungal infection appears as white lesions on your tongue and inner cheeks. Those with reduced immune systems or who are on certain medications are more susceptible to thrush.
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps with keeping your mouth clean, healing wounds in the mouth, tasting food, and digesting it. So, a frequently dry mouth is not healthy and can point to a variety of different issues.
- Mouth cancer: This can often look like thrush in the mouth. Watch for sores, lumps, or thickening in the mouth, lips, or throat, a persistent sore throat, problems with swallowing or moving your tongue, ear pain, or voice changes.
- Jaw or mouth pain: This can be caused by tooth decay, an infection in the jaw bone, or even an inner ear infection, but it can sometimes signal something more serious, such as heart disease.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you definitely have a serious health issue. But, if you do notice any of them you should see your dentist right away but also speak with your primary care doctor as well.
A Good Oral Hygiene Routine = One of Your Best Defenses for Your Mouth & Body
One easy and effective way to help keep your mouth and body healthy is to maintain an effective oral hygiene routine/plan. Here are some of the key ways to do that:
Every Time You Brush, Brush for Two Minutes
Doing so will ensure you thoroughly clean all the way around your teeth and along the gumline. Make sure to also get all the nooks and crannies in the back of your mouth.
Make Sure to Scrape Your Tongue Too
Also brushing/scraping your tongue will remove any bacteria that has built up and prevent it from ending up on your teeth and gums.
Start Your Morning by Brushing
If you brush your teeth first thing in the morning, before you do anything else, you will properly clean away the plaque-causing bacteria that has built up on your teeth overnight.
Brush After Meals Too!
The best case scenario is to also brush after every meal. This is when a travel toothbrush and toothpaste are useful. If it isn’t possible to brush immediately after a meal, swish your mouth out with water and then brush your teeth as soon as you can.
Replace Your Toothbrush Every 2 to 3 Months
Toothbrush bristles don’t last forever. If your bristles are overly worn or splayed, they will no longer clean your teeth properly. Get a new toothbrush or replace your electric toothbrush head every 2 to 3 months.
Use an Electric Toothbrush
An electric toothbrush will clean your teeth and gums WAY more thoroughly than a manual brush. In fact, an electric toothbrush provides, on average, roughly 30,000 bristle movements per minute. This isn’t nearly possible with a manual toothbrush. Ask our dental team for their recommendations about the most efficient, yet still cost-effective brands.
Flossing daily will ensure that you keep your gums healthy and properly clean past the gum line, which a toothbrush can’t do. Flossing also stimulates the gums and further helps prevent gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis).
Rinse Your Mouth with Fluoride Mouthwash
Using a fluoride mouthwash after you brush your teeth will significantly help reduce plaque buildup, bad breath, and help prevent cavities.
Skip the Sugar
The bacteria that leads to tooth decay feeds on sugar. But giving up sugary foods and drinks will not only help your dental health, it will also help your overall health. But if you do eat or drink anything with sugar, make sure to brush your teeth right away and rinse your mouth with mouthwash.
Use a Straw in Your Drinks
Using a straw in a sugary or acidic drink and angling it toward the back of your mouth, can help minimize the damage done to your teeth. (But again, make sure to still brush afterward.)
Avoid Using Tobacco Products
Not only is it bad for your overall health, but it’s bad for your oral health. Smoking and dipping both interfere with the normal function of gum tissue cells. Thus, making tobacco users more susceptible to oral infections.
A good, daily oral health routine will take commitment but the payoff is well worth it. Make sure your routine is consistent. You can miss brushing occasionally without too much damage, but not every day. And if you need to adjust a part of the routine so it works for you, do it. If flossing is not convenient at night; do it in the morning. Just do it consistently!
For more information on a good oral hygiene routine, check out our article on why it is so important.
Radomile Family Dental Care Cares About Your Overall Health Too!
We not only care about your oral health but your overall health as well. Here are some other things we recommend doing that will help you maintain good overall health as well:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes at a moderate level per day.
- Drink more water.
- Limit or, ideally, avoid the use of alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- If you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is properly controlled.
Make Your Overall Health a Team Effort
The experienced and compassionate dental team here at Radomile Family Dental Care wants to be part of the joint effort to help you properly maintain a healthy mouth and body. We aim to provide not only exceptional dental care but also a lifelong relationship based on overall good health!
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us or schedule your appointment for a dental checkup today!