You’ve probably heard about the importance of oral hygiene all your life – brush twice a day, floss once a day, eat fruits and veggies, and avoid sugar. Easy enough, right? However there are deeper reasons to follow these guidelines beyond pearly whites. It’s no secret that gum disease comes from bacteria in your mouth, but the same bacteria that cause gum disease can affect other parts of your body such as your heart, brain, pancreas and more.
Saliva – The First Line of Defense
Spit may be gross, but it’s part of your body’s defense system. Chock full of antibodies and histatins to ward off viral pathogens, your saliva traps initial invaders that try to enter your system. This means your mouth is a good way to judge the overall flora inside your body. For example, 90 percent of systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms. Your spit is a powerful trap that clings onto bacteria as well as drugs, environmental toxins, hormones and antibodies. That’s how physicians test for data like Cortisol levels or bone-specific proteins for osteoporosis patients.
While saliva is useful for your body’s immune system, it can’t do everything. Bacteria that survive your mouth’s defense systems form plaque that clings to your teeth and cause problems like gingivitis, periodontitis and trench mouth.
When Gum Disease Spreads
When these microscopic pests build up in your saliva and on your teeth, it can affect your gums. If left unchecked, the plaque buildup they create can cause gum disease. Severe gum disease doesn’t just end in missing teeth. Oral infections are linked to poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preterm birth. Furthermore, the bacteria that cause these diseases can enter your bloodstream during invasive dental treatments and sometimes, normal brushing and flossing. Once these pathogens enter your bloodstream, they can affect your arteries and strain your heart and other organs.
Prevention & Care
Some diseases are linked to poor oral health, while other conditions make their hosts more prone to gum disease. If you have a poor hygiene routine for long enough, you might be prone to endocarditis, cardiovascular disease and, for women, risky complications during labor. On the other hand, conditions like diabetes, HIV/AIDS and osteoporosis can lead to gum disease without proper oral care. The best way to prevent these issues are the same methods you’ve heard all your life – brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss, eat healthy, replace your toothbrush frequently, schedule regular dental checkups and avoid tobacco use.