The connection between general health and oral health has come under the spotlight in recent years. Research shows that poor oral health can put you at risk for health problems like heart disease. On the flip side, your general health can also affect your oral health. Here are six health-related issues that can impact your oral health.
The detrimental effects of diabetes on your eyesight, kidneys, and heart is well known. What most people don’t know is that diabetes is also bad for your oral health. Oral conditions like periodontitis (acute inflammation of the gums) make it harder for the body to process insulin.
A dry mouth or receding or bleeding gums can indicate an underlying condition like diabetes. Having a dry mouth means less saliva to wash away food particles, sugar, and acids, making diabetic patients more prone to cavities. In addition, because wounds typically heal more slowly in people with diabetes, oral problems like mouth ulcers and gum infections can take much longer to heal.
Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease that affects more women than men. People suffering from osteoporosis have a lower bone density that weakens the bones and causes it to fracture more easily. This reduced bone density can affect the jaw bone, contribute to periodontitis and tooth loss, and can result in dentures not fitting properly. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to suffer tooth loss than those who don’t have the condition. Calcium intake, especially during and after menopause, is crucial in preventing osteoporosis and its effects on oral health.
HIV and AIDS
People with HIV and AIDS suffer oral problems much more than those who don’t have the disease. Many times, the dentist is the first to discover oral signs that point towards HIV. Mouth ulcers, oral warts, oral thrush, lesions on the tongue, and inflammation of the gums are common in people with HIV and AIDS. It’s important that HIV patients take good care of their overall health by following a healthy lifestyle and being diligent with taking their antiviral medication. Oral infections can spread to other parts of the body leading to serious complications or death for someone with a weakened immune system.
There are two ways having asthma can ruin your teeth:
- Asthma medications like bronchodilator and corticosteroid inhalers can cause dental cavities, especially when used daily to prevent asthma attacks. Prolonged use of asthma inhalers reduces saliva production in the mouth, leaving your teeth and gums susceptible to infections and tooth decay.
- When an asthma attack strikes, it’s usually accompanied by coughing. Regular coughing fits can cause a condition called gastro-oesophageal reflux, also called acid reflux. This is when acid from the stomach pushes up into the oesphogus and sometimes into the mouth. If this happens often, the acid will eventually cause tooth erosion.
Stress and Anxiety
You may not think stress and anxiety can impact your teeth but here’s how it does that. When we’re under stress or suffering from anxiety, we tend to tense up, tighten our jaws and clamp down on our teeth. Some people start grinding their teeth, which can happen while awake or asleep. Try to be aware of this and loosen your jaw when you feel tense and use a night guard to protect your teeth while you sleep.
People who smoke cigarettes, drink excessive amounts of alcohol and take illegal drugs place themselves at risk for a myriad of health problems, including oral problems. Smoking not only discolours your pearly whites but increases your risk of gum disease. Certain drugs, like methamphetamine, severely damage teeth and gums. The term “meth mouth” was coined because of how badly the drug impacts teeth, causing them to rot, break, and fall out. Drug addicts are also less likely to care for their teeth due to general neglect of personal hygiene or lack of money.
The mouth-body connection means your oral health affects your general health and your general health affects your oral health. Following an unhealthy lifestyle will affect both your oral and overall health. If your lifestyle can benefit from some changes, you don’t need to make big sweeping changes all at once. Implementing these small changes over time will help you improve your health:
- Incorporate healthier food choices and switch to a healthier cooking style, like baking instead of frying.
- Increase your physical activity. Even 15 minutes of walking a day will be beneficial.
- Stop smoking and consume alcohol moderately.
- Part of a healthy lifestyle is looking after your dental health. Brush and floss your teeth daily, schedule regular checkups with your dentist, and don’t leave dental problems unattended.
There’s growing evidence to support the link between oral health and overall health. Going for regular dental checkups can help you identify underlying health problems. Once you’re aware of a health condition, you can take steps to overcome it or, at least, minimize its effect on your oral health if the condition is unavoidable.