girl on dentist chair

Oral Health: The Gateway to Overall Health

Teeth checkup at dentist's officeCollege of DuPage Nursing Student Rana Gerzevske shared with Healthy Lombard that the mouth is a doorway to the health of the body. It serves as an indicator of infection, nutritional deficiencies, and unhealthy habits such as smoking. The mouth is known to have more than 6 billion bacteria: good and bad. However, when the bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria due to a lack of good oral maintenance they can infiltrate the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and cause serious complications (Sung, 2018). For example, oral bacteria that enter the bloodstream and affect blood vessels or cause clots or increase inflammation resulting in a heart attack or stroke. That being the case, it is crucial to consider oral health, conditions contributing to poor oral health, and how to prevent it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), oral health refers to the health of the teeth, gums, and the oral-facial system that is involved in smiling, speaking, and chewing. Good quality oral health can positively affect one’s life. When healthy, the gums and the lining of the mouth should be pink and moist, and the breath should have a neutral to no odor. Abnormal symptoms in the mouth include dryness of the mucous membranes, foul breath odor, or a change of color to blue, white, cherry red, or yellow which indicate dehydration, poor oral hygiene or that the body is fighting a disease.

The most common diseases affecting oral health are cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis (CDC, 2020). These infections are typically caused by excess bacteria in the mouth. Some of these bacteria are inhaled without one’s knowledge and may result in pneumonia. An individual may not realize they have gum disease which results in a continual state of inflammation which contributes to cardiovascular diseases such as endocarditis (Brazier, 2018), poor health in the teeth or gums increases the risk of endocarditis, as this makes it easier for the bacteria to get in. Therefore, oral health is essential to overall health and should be protected with an oral health care plan.

A good oral health care plan may involve three things: flossing and brushing daily, eating a well-balanced diet, and regular visits to the dentist. Flossing daily and brushing twice a day with a soft toothbrush for two minutes is an effective way to reduce gum disease and plaque buildup. In addition to daily brushing and flossing, limiting sugar intake and a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein equally important. Following a good oral health plan will help reduce the risk for tooth decay, keep teeth healthy, and allow the body to effectively fight disease and or infection, such as periodontitis. Scheduling dental visits every 6 months is crucial to health. During these visits, teeth are cleaned and screening for cavities can be performed with x-rays, as well as evaluating to determine if gum disease exists. This is especially important if the risk or presence of other ailments exists.

Overall, oral health involves more than just teeth. It is important to understand how to maintain good oral health and the negative effects of poor oral hygiene, as these are tools needed to protect the general health of the individual; the mouth is the window to the health of the body.

 

References

Brazier, Y. (2018, January 22). Endocarditis: Symptoms, causes, and treatment. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/151016#causes

Oral health basics: Symptoms, types, causes & more. (2019, March 08). (C. Frank DDS, Ed.) https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health

Oral health conditions. (2020, November 03)  https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/index.html

Sung, C. (2018, May 04). How oral bacteria can affect the rest of your body. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.choice-dental.com.au/how-oral-bacteria-can-affect-the-rest-of-your-body/

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