Oral health in the U.S. has significantly improved over the last couple of decades. However, a sizeable number of individuals still go without basic dental care, which leads to poor dental hygiene and greater rates of oral diseases. Oral diseases, including gum diseases, tooth decay, and oral cancer cause significant hardship among many adults and children, especially for those with no access to care and preventive services.
However, taking actions early for dental hygiene prevents many conditions attributed to poor dental hygiene. This article provides you with reasons dental hygiene prevents expensive health problems.
What Is Dental Hygiene?
Dental hygiene usually refers to the practice of keeping the teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and clean to prevent diseases. Taking good care of your mouth, gums, and teeth is worthwhile as it can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Good dental care entails an annual checkup, drinking fluoridated water, brushing and flossing, and ensuring that each person in a family is covered by dental insurance.
The Role of a Healthy Mouth
Good oral health is vital as it enhances our ability to speak, eat, smile, and show emotions via facial expressions. Preventive oral habits that are developed early in life—for example, good oral hygiene and regular dental care—can lead to a better overall oral and dental health in the entire life of an individual.
A healthy mouth eliminates plaque that most oral bacteria feed on. These prevent any instance of oral infections. Prevention is the key word here as we are preventing potential diseases, including:
- Trench mouth
- Oral thrush
A healthy mouth and dental hygiene prevent 80% of cavities among children. Early preventive care allows for dental hygiene among children, which saves families money in the long-run, especially for low-income families.
Your Mouth Reveals More About Your Health
Doctors can examine your saliva to know what is going on in your body. Many conditions cause oral symptoms. Your mouth serves as a vantage point that helps in detecting these signs and symptoms. For instance, systemic conditions, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS first become apparent as oral problems, such as mouth lesions. The Academy of General Dentistry postulates that over 90% of systemic symptoms show oral signs and symptoms.
How Dental Hygiene Can Keep Your Whole Body Healthy
Oral Health and Overall Health
Just like any other areas on the body, your mouth teems with bacteria. However, note that most of them do not cause any harm. Your body’s defenses and a good oral health, including daily flossing and brushing, are important for keeping these bacteria under control. You should note that with improper oral hygiene, the bacteria can reach to levels that might be detrimental to your health as they can lead to oral infections, which can lead to gum diseases and tooth decay.
Some medications, such as antidepressants, diuretics, painkillers, antihistamines, and decongestants can reduce the flow of saliva. You should note that saliva is essential for washing away food, and neutralizing acids that are produced by the mouth's bacteria, which helps protect you from any microbial invasion, or an instance of bacteria overgrowth, which can lead to a disease.
Experts suggest that the inflammation and oral bacteria that are associated with periodontics can contribute to some diseases. Importantly, some diseases including HIV/AIDS and diabetes can lower your body’s ability to resist infections, which makes oral health problems more severe.
Saliva as a Diagnostic Tool
Doctors are able to collect and test your saliva in order to detect a variety of substances. Cortisol levels in the saliva are used for testing for the stress responses in newborns. The fragments of some bone-specific proteins can also be used to monitor bone loss among women, and susceptibility to osteoporosis. In addition, there are certain cancer makers that can also be detected in your saliva.
In addition, routine saliva testing can also be used to measure environmental toxins, illegal drugs, antibodies, and hormones, which show HIV infection and hepatitis. The capability of detecting HIV-specific antibodies has contributed to the production and use of commercial, easy-to-use saliva test kits. It may sound almost futuristic, but saliva testing may also replace blood testing as a way of making a diagnosis and monitoring diseases such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, Parkinson’s disease, and many other diseases and infections.
Saliva Helps in Protection Against Harmful Invaders
Saliva is vital in protecting you against harmful invaders that may gain entry into your body through the mouth. In fact, saliva disables viruses and bacteria. It is one of the body’s main defenses against organisms that cause diseases. The saliva consists of antibodies that attack viral pathogens, including colds and HIV.
Saliva also contains proteins referred to as histatins that are responsible for inhibiting the growth of a fungus known as Candida albicans, which is naturally occurring. You should note that once these proteins are weakened by illnesses such as HIV infections, candida grows out of control, which may result in oral thrush, a form of fungal infection.
In addition, the saliva is essential in protecting you against any disease-causing bacteria as it contains enzymes that destroy the bacteria in a variety of ways. The destruction is attributed to the enzymes capable of degrading the membranes of the bacteria, inhibiting any further growth and their metabolism. This disrupts the vital bacteria enzyme systems, and thus, their control. This evidences why saliva is vital in promoting dental hygiene and keeping your whole body healthy.
Problems with Dental Plaque
Even though your saliva is vital in protecting you against invaders, it cannot always do the job. There are over 500 bacteria species that can thrive in your mouth. They constantly cause dental plaque, which is a colorless and sticky film that can cling to your teeth, and consequently lead to health issues.
The Mouth as an Infection Source
If you do not brush and floss your teeth regularly to keep your teeth clean, there is a high possibility that plaque will build up in your gumline, which creates an environment where additional bacteria accumulate in the space between your teeth and the gums. This infection is referred to as gingivitis. If the bacterial infection is left unchecked, it leads to a more serious gum infection referred to as periodontitis. However, further infections by the bacteria lead to the most severe form of gum infection known as trench mouth. You should note that trench mouth is an acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis.
The bacteria from your mouth do not enter the bloodstream. Some invasive dental treatments, and even sometimes of routine brushing and flossing, can provide a point of entry of the pathogens. The medications that minimize saliva flow and the antibiotics that disrupt the normal balance of mouth bacteria can also compromise the mouth’s defenses, which will lead to the entry of the bacteria into the bloodstream.
If your immune system is healthy, oral bacteria will not cause any problems. This is because your immune system quickly disperses the pathogens, which prevents infection. In cases where the immune system is weak, for example, due to cancer or disease treatment, the oral bacteria in your bloodstream may cause an infection in other areas of your body. One example is infective endocarditis, which is a condition that results when oral bacteria move in the bloodstream and stick to the lining of heart valves.
Plaque as a Source of Certain Conditions
Gum infections in the long-term may lead to the loss of teeth, and the effects may not end there. Recent research has established that there may be a connection between gum infections and poorly controlled cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or preterm birth.
If you have diabetes, you are already at a risk of developing gum disease. Chronic gum diseases significantly make diabetes harder to control. The infection can lead to insulin resistance, making it hard to control blood sugar.
Gingivitis may contribute to clogged arteries as blood clots, as oral infections can cause inflammation in different parts of the body. The infections may be severe, particularly when atherosclerotic plaques emerge in the arteries, which increases the possibility of a stroke or heart attack. People with gum diseases have a higher risk of stroke or heart disease.
Severe gum disease may also increase the risk of preterm delivery, which leads to an underweight baby. The theory behind this is that oral bacteria release toxins that through the bloodstream reach the placenta which interferes with the growth and development of the fetus. In addition, the oral infection can produce labor-triggering substances that lead to premature labor and birth.
A healthy mouth is reason enough in itself to practice good oral hygiene, yet the relationship between the overall health and oral health provides even more. You should resolve to practice good dental hygiene on a daily basis. You are actually making an investment to your overall health, not just for now, built for the future.
We hope that after reading this article you will take steps toward improving your dental hygiene to prevent expensive health problems.