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Dental Health and Overall Health

Maybe you’ve heard that your dental health and overall health are connected. But how closely related are they, really? Like two peas in a pod: VERY. Your dental (oral) health provides important indicators of how healthy you are as a whole. In reverse, problems in your oral health can negatively affect your overall health. Here’s a brief connection breakdown that might be surprising to you.

You wear your heart on your . . . teeth.

Dental health really is a window to your heart. Teeth and gums that aren’t cared for properly are at risk for cavities, a buildup of plaque, and gum disease – but that’s just the start. Research shows a strong link between gum disease (periodontitis) and cardiovascular disease, including increased risk of heart attack and/or stroke. While the reason for the connection isn’t clear, gum disease and heart disease share common risk factors. Gum disease may cause low-grade inflammation throughout other parts of the body, which can prevent the body from effectively fighting disease. In addition, people already diagnosed with diabetes are at higher risk for the development of gum disease – likely because diabetes prevents the body from effectively fighting infection. Proper dental care, along with regular medical and dental checkups, are your best options to stay at optimal health.

Saliva is your best friend.

Saliva might not sound like the most helpfully healthy thing, but get this – saliva is one of your best allies in the fight against oral and bodily diseases. How? Saliva is your mouth’s way of naturally fighting bacteria and viruses. Saliva is mostly water, but also contains mucus, enzymes, histatins (antimicrobial and antifungal proteins), and antibacterial compounds. An abundance of oral bacteria or viral pathogens can easily spread throughout the body and contribute to infection, colds, HIV, and more. Saliva’s neutralizing antibodies fight off many diseases before they have a chance to spread to other parts of your body. Saliva also provides doctors a wealth of information when testing for other diseases or the presence of compounds in the body.

Know your signs.

There are a handful of dental warning signs that can tip you off that something else needs to be checked out by a healthcare professional:

  • Gum disease during pregnancy may cause lower birth weight and/or pre-term labor.
  • Poor oral hygiene or gum disease in the elderly may contribute to the development of bacterial pneumonia.
  • Inflamed gums, dry mouth (lack of saliva), or mouth ulcers could indicate the presence of a systemic disease (affecting organs or the whole body).

Take out two birds with one stone.

Thankfully, since there are common links, simple care in a few areas can significantly decrease risk factors in both your oral and overall health at the same time. One such area is diet: choosing healthy foods and eliminating highly-processed, sugary foods decreases the risk of cavities, gum disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Limiting alcohol consumption decreases risks of liver and cardiovascular disease, as well as various mouth cancers.  

Your dentist is one of your best early lines of defense to keep your oral and overall health top-notch.

Proper dental hygiene at home (brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash) boosts your overall health by removing bacteria and viral pathogens before they have a chance to spread and decreasing the likelihood of cavities, inflammation, and gum disease, which in turn decreases the risk of a whole host of systemic diseases. Early detection and treatment of any potential issues increases your chance of recovering totally and quickly. Regularly scheduled cleanings at your dentist’s office removes buildup of plaque and bacteria that you may not have been able to eliminate at home.

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With over 10 years of dentistry experience in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Larsen Family Dentistry provides personable, quality, and affordable dental care to men and women of all ages. If you're looking for high quality and personal service, you've come to the right place. It is our passion to keep your smile healthy and beautiful.

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