Oral Health and Overall Health
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What is Oral Health?
Good oral health and hygiene begin with clean teeth, proper dental care habits, and awareness of daily behaviors.
Nutrition, regular teeth cleanings, and your medical history also impact your oral health standing.
If you do not practice good oral hygiene, you are at a higher risk of developing serious oral conditions and diseases. These diseases include cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, bruxism-related conditions, cracked tooth syndrome, and more.
Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health
Your everyday lifestyle, general health status, and choices can positively or negatively impact your oral health standing.
Your diet and the amount of alcohol you drink weekly can influence how healthy your mouth is. Whether or not you use tobacco products also impacts your dental health.
Hormonal changes throughout life, such as during puberty and pregnancy, put you at a higher risk of developing serious oral conditions. Taking certain medications for health conditions (e.g. diabetes or cancer) or abusing drugs can also take a toll on your oral health.
Common risk factors associated with poor oral health include:
- Heart disease — periodontal disease (advanced gum disease) is linked to higher rates of heart disease. Poor oral health increases the risk of a bacterial infection reaching the bloodstream, which can eventually spread to the heart valves.
- Diabetes and stroke — untreated tooth decay puts you at an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. There is also a higher chance of a stroke occurring as you age.
- Weakened immune system — poor dental health results in a weakened immune system, which makes you more prone to developing illnesses, infections, and diseases.
Nutrition and Your Oral Health
An unbalanced diet consisting of sugary foods, fast food, and other processed foods increases your risk of developing oral diseases over time.
Sugar plays a direct role in the development of cavities. This is because the bacteria in plaque use sugar as energy and then release acid as a “waste product.” As a result, your enamel dissolves and cavities form.
Tooth decay progresses as you age, and the effects of sugar on the teeth are lifelong. In other words, eating unhealthy foods long-term results in more buildup of dental plaque and cavities. If left untreated, tooth loss and soft-tissue (gum) damage can also occur.
Studies show that there may be a way to minimize the risk of tooth decay if you limit added sugars to 5 percent of your total daily intake.
Natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products are not included in this percentage. Learn more about how your diet impacts your oral health.
Medications and Your Oral Health
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can lead to uncomfortable and serious oral health conditions.
Some medications (e.g., antidepressants and blood pressure medications) can cause dry mouth. This is a condition where the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva.
Without proper saliva production, your mouth cannot rinse out bacteria effectively, which may result in cavities.
Alcohol Abuse and Your Oral Health
Long-term and excessive alcohol consumption negatively impacts your teeth and gums, which can result in serious dental conditions. These conditions include:
- Enamel erosion
- Dry mouth
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Periodontal disease
- Mouth sores
- Oral cancer
Other minor conditions that may develop due to alcohol abuse include tooth discoloration and bad breath.