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You may have considered what it would cost to have a healthy smile, but what does an unhealthy smile cost you? When you consider the effects of a neglected smile, perhaps you think of crooked or discolored teeth, bad breath, or even tooth loss. But a lack of oral hygiene can lead to health problems beyond those in your mouth.
Your body is made of interconnected systems, and the mouth serves as the primary gateway for what enters the body. That means that an unhealthy mouth can result in health problems elsewhere in your body. Similarly, the mouth can serve as a diagnostic tool for other health issues that seem to have little to do with your smile.
Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between oral health and the rest of the body.
Did you know your mouth is full of bacteria? Don’t worry — for the most part, this is a good thing! A healthy mouth needs to have enough good bacteria to fight off disease-carrying microorganisms that may enter the mouth when you breathe, drink, or eat.
Good bacteria in the mouth can help you:
Unfortunately, not all bacteria in your mouth are quite so beneficial. Plaque forms naturally on your teeth when you consume sugar or carbohydrates. If not brushed or flossed away regularly, certain bacteria will feed on plaque, producing acid that damages your teeth and can lead to tooth decay over time.
These bacteria lead to oral health issues you probably already know about — gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, etc. But weak teeth, inflammation, and bleeding gums can create opportunities for other harmful bacteria to enter your bloodstream. This can result in health issues elsewhere in your body.
More studies are needed to determine if your oral health causes other health issues, or if your oral health is just linked to your overall health in some way. Regardless of whether it comes down to causation or correlation, what matters is that there’s a connection.
Your oral health can be linked to multiple other health issues, including:
We’ve looked at how your oral health can affect your overall health. But did you know that the opposite is also true? Certain health conditions can make it more difficult for patients to maintain a healthy smile:
Each tooth in your mouth provides support for surrounding teeth. When one tooth is missing or extracted, nearby teeth have nothing to lean on and will tilt toward the open space.
This movement often leads to crooked teeth that are harder to clean properly and can result in tooth decay or further tooth loss. Replacement options like dentures, dental bridges, or dental implants help keep natural teeth in their original positions and prevent excess hard-to-reach tartar buildup.
Jawbone deterioration can also occur because of missing teeth. When you lose a tooth, your body will naturally start to absorb the minerals in your jaw to use elsewhere. This can lead to a change in the shape of the face, known as facial collapse. The jawbone needs stimulation to remain healthy and dental implants can provide that for you.
The link between your oral health and your overall health is clear. So how do you protect both? Luckily, there are three simple steps you can take to promote a healthy smile:
Our preventive dentists in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Comstock Park, MI, can help you maintain a healthy smile as well as promote good oral and overall health. With four practices in West Michigan, we have room to treat the entire family. To schedule an appointment, call one of our MI Smiles Dental locations today.
This blog post has been updated.
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