protect your smile

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.

How Your Oral Health Affects Your Body’s Health

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:

  • Fight bad breath
  • Digest your food
  • Reduce oral diseases like oral candida, periodontal diseases, etc.

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.

Health Conditions Linked to Your Oral Health

Your oral health can be linked to multiple other health issues, including:

  • Heart disease: Some research suggests that bacteria can enter through the mouth and make their way directly to the heart, leading to cardiovascular problems.
  • Stroke: Bacteria can cause inflammation in your arteries, leading to a stroke.
  • Lung disease: Your mouth is connected to your respiratory system, making it easy for bacteria to enter the lungs and worsen health conditions like pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Some evidence suggests that bacteria can increase the pain caused by this inflammatory disease.

How Your Body’s Health Affect Your Oral Health

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:

  • Diabetes: Studies have shown that people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease and are more likely to have more severe forms of the disease, such as periodontitis.
  • Pregnancy: The rush of hormones that accompanies pregnancy can exaggerate existing oral health problems.

What Happens When You Have Missing Teeth?

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.

How to Invest in Good Oral Hygiene

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:

  1. Brush your teeth: The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day. That should eliminate most of the plaque that builds up on your teeth over the course of the day and during the night.
  2. Floss daily: Brushing your teeth gets rid of most, but not all, of your plaque. Unfortunately, your teeth can have some hard-to-reach spots in which plaque can fester and turn into tartar, which is much harder to remove. Flossing lets you reach those difficult spots to get rid of more plaque.
  3. Schedule a teeth cleaning every six months: Only a professional teeth cleaning can completely remove tartar from your teeth. That’s why we recommend getting a teeth cleaning every six months. A regular teeth cleaning is also a great opportunity for our dentists to examine your teeth for signs of other oral health issues. That way, we can prevent problems or deal with them while they’re still minor.

We Can Help Keep Your Smile Healthy

Our dentists in West Michigan can help you maintain a healthy smile as well as promote good oral and overall health. To schedule an appointment and get a professional cleaning marked down in your calendar, call one of our MI Smiles Dental locations today.

This blog post has been updated.