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The connection between oral health and overall health
Updated: 1/8/2013 8:12:23 PM
 

The connection between oral health and overall health  When it comes to dental health, some people may believe that the consequences of poor oral care habits stop at the mouth, but they would be incorrect. The mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and there is a strong association between oral health and overall well-being, which is why it's important for people to make dental care a priority. While the connection between oral care and overall health has been known for quite some time, scientists have only recently begun to understand how strong this relationship is.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the mouth is a window to the health of the body. For example, a dental checkup may be all it takes to diagnose a number of conditions, such as diabetes, AIDS and Sjogren's syndrome. Furthermore, there is a growing body of research that suggests that people who don't take proper care of their teeth may have an increased risk of developing health problems such as heart disease.

Good and bad bacteria
The Mayo Clinic explains that the mouth is filled with bacteria. While many people may find that gross, it's important to understand that there are both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria in the mouth work to dominate the bad so that the teeth stay healthy and cavity-free. However, sometimes the bad bacteria will grow out of control and wreak havoc on the mouth. This can happen for a number of reasons, but is most often due to poor oral care habits and a sugar-filled diet.

While some people believe that sugar causes cavities, that's actually not the case. Sugar acts as food for the bad bacteria in the mouth, which in turn attack the enamel of the teeth and cause cavities and gum disease. This is why it's important for people to monitor how much sugar they eat so they don't let the bad bacteria in their mouths grow out of control.

Another way that there can be an overgrowth of bad bacteria is if there is not enough saliva in the mouth. When saliva flows through the mouth, it washes away bacteria, and when there's not enough of it,  there's nothing working to keep these organisms in check.

Bacteria attack the rest of the body
When bad bacteria overrun the mouth, the organisms may cross over into your bloodstream and affect the rest of your body. The ADA states that while more research is needed, a number of studies have suggested that chronic inflammation from gum disease caused by bad bacteria may be linked to the development of cardiovascular issues such as arterial blockages and stroke. While more studies need to be conducted to fully understand the connection between heart problems and dental health, the associations that have been discovered should be more than enough to encourage people to take better care of their teeth.

What should be done
What can people do to protect themselves against harmful mouth bacteria that may affect the rest of the body? Along with brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and making regular visits to the dentist, people should also eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, people also need to be on the lookout for signs that something is wrong in their mouths. Common signs of gum disease include gums that bleed during brushing and flossing or those that are red, swollen and tender. Also, people who have persistent bad breath, pus between their teeth and gums, or loose and separating teeth should see their dentist as soon as possible.

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