Staying Healthy: The Connection Between Your Mouth and Body

Did you know that the health of your mouth and your body go hand-in-hand? Here’s how taking care of your teeth can influence your overall well-being:

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Photo by Rory MacLeod via Flickr

We all know how important it is to keep our bodies fit throughout our lifetime. Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep are all common suggestions to keep your mind and body functioning well for a lifetime.

But did you know that maintaining your oral health goes hand-in-hand with your physical well-being?

The state of your mouth plays an important role in your overall health. First, it offers clues as to what is going on in your body. Secondly, keeping up a healthy oral hygiene regimen can actually boost your wellbeing and health. To better understand the connection between the state of your mouth and body, here are some crucial things you need to know:

What does the mouth reveal about health?

Believe it or not, the state of your mouth can say a lot about the health of the rest of your body. One simple swab of saliva can tell your doctor volumes about your overall health.

Think of your mouth as a window that gives insight to what is happening in your body. Often, the mouth serves as a vantage point for early diagnosis for many systemic diseases (which are diseases that affect the entire body). By checking the mouth, doctors can see early signs and symptoms of these conditions. Systemic diseases like diabetes or AIDS are first apparent in oral problems like mouth lesions. In fact, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.

Diagnosis Through Saliva

Many physicians collect saliva to test for a plethora of substances that indicate the state of your overall health. Here are some examples:

  • Cancer Markers
    Certain cancer markers can be detected in saliva, helping diagnose the condition earlier.

  • Stress Response
    Cortisol levels are found from collecting saliva and used to test the stress response of newborn babies.

  • Osteoporosis
    Men and women who are at a high risk for osteoporosis can have their saliva tested for fragments of certain bone-specific proteins.  

  • Illegal drugs
    Routine saliva testing is becoming a common way to test for the illegal use of drugs.

  • Hepatitis or HIV Infection
    By testing saliva for the presence of certain antibodies and hormones, doctors can diagnose infections like HIV or Hepatitis.

As saliva testing technology and procedures advance, saliva tests may replace blood tests to diagnose many more diseases like Parkinson’s disease and other infectious conditions.

Disease and conditions linked to poor oral health

Because your mouth is full of both helpful and harmful bacteria, it’s important to keep the bacteria under control with proper maintenance, like brushing and flossing regularly. Without proper oral hygiene, your mouth and body can suffer the consequences. When teeth are neglected, bacteria can lead to oral infections like gum disease and tooth decay. According to Mayo Clinic, poor oral health can lead to other harmful diseases and conditions, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
    Some research has shown a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular issues like clogged arteries, heart disease, and strokes. Researchers believe that these conditions may be influenced by the infections and inflammation caused by an excess of oral bacteria.

  • Endocarditis
    An infection of the inner lining of the heart is called endocarditis. This issue occurs when the germs or bacteria from your mouth or other body parts spread to the bloodstream and damage the heart by attaching to its lining.

  • Diabetes
    Gums and mouth are at risk with diabetes because it reduces the body’s resistance to infection. Research has shown that those with gum disease often have a harder time controlling blood sugar levels. Thus, periodontitis occurs more frequently with people who have diabetes.

  • Bone degeneration Studies have shown links between osteoporosis and oral issues like tooth loss and periodontal bone loss.

  • Premature birth
    Woman who are pregnant are at a higher risk for gum disease due to hormonal imbalances. Premature birth and low birth weight have been linked to women with periodontitis.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
    One risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease is the loss of teeth under the age of 35.

  • Sjogren’s syndrome
    Sjogren's syndrome is an immune disorder that is linked to dry mouth.

It’s important to be aware of these potential links to these serious conditions. If you notice any changes in your oral health or are taking medications that could influence your oral health, it’s crucial that you keep your dentist and doctor informed.

Habits that are good for the teeth and body

So what’s the best way to take best care of your teeth and body? Here are some of our recommended tips:

  • Cut back on sugar.
    We all know that too much sugar can lead to cavities. But sugar can take a negative toll on your body beyond the teeth and waistline. For example, too much sugar primes your body for diabetes and can lead to high blood pressure over time.

    The problem with sugar consumption is that many people aren’t very aware of how much sugar they eat on a daily basis. There are a lot of common foods that contain added sugar, like ketchup, yogurt, and salad dressing. Many workout drinks and and energy bars also contain high amounts of sugar, putting athletes at risk for tooth decay. To keep your body and teeth in shape, it’s best to read food labels and keep sugar consumption to a minimum.

  • Avoid acidic drinks.
    Coffee and soda are staples in the diet of many people. It’s what gets them going in the morning, fueling them with sugar and caffeine to keep productive during the day. But the high acidity found in these drinks are not good for the teeth or body.

    The thin, outermost layer of a tooth’s hard tissue is called enamel, maintaining and protecting the tooth’s shape and structure. Acid is  enamel’s worst nightmare. Taking sips of acidic beverages on a daily basis wears away this protective barrier. This can put teeth at higher risk for tooth erosion and decay, and leave teeth stained and discolored overtime. Plus, acidic foods and beverages can throw your body’s natural pH system off balance, leading to other health issues.

  • Stay active.
    Of course, keeping your body active by exercising regularly can keep your body healthy. But did you know that it can keep your mouth in shape, too? A 2005 study published in the Journal of Dentistry found that regular exercise can lower the risk of gum disease. The researcher found that with participants who never smoked and exercised regularly were 54% less likely to have periodontitis than the counterparts who didn’t exercise.

    Still, it’s important to take extra care of your teeth when you work out. Exercising can lead to low saliva production and dry mouth, putting teeth at risk. However, breathing through your nose and chewing gum can keep your mouth moist and stimulate more saliva flow when you work out.

  • No more tobacco.
    Chewing, dipping, and smoking are hazardous to your body, from your lungs to your gums and beyond. Tobacco usage can cause teeth to yellow, discolor, and stain overtime, sometimes causing irreversible damage. It can also lead to receding gums, tooth decay, and failed dental implants.

    Tobacco also poses serious risks to other parts of the body. It can take a negative toll on your heart and lungs. Plus, it has been linked to both oral and lung cancer. If you have a bad tobacco habit, you may want to call it quits for the sake of your overall health.

  • Stick to an oral health regimen.
    Keeping up with healthy teeth habits can do more than keep your pearly whites happy. According to WebMD, taking care of your mouth can pay off overtime with better health and wellness for your whole self. Some ways that good oral hygiene can boost your overall health is enhancing your confidence, lowering your risk of heart disease, and preserving your memory.

    The best ways to keep your teeth in prime condition is to brush, floss, and rinse your mouth on a daily basis, twice a day at least. This will prevent harmful bacteria from building up on your teeth and gums, protecting you from infections and tooth decay. Plus, it’s crucial to keep up with regular dental cleanings and examinations so that your dentist can take care of your mouth and give you the preventative care you need.

Overall, the best thing you can do is to make time to take care of your body and teeth. Being conscientious of what you eat and do to your body can help you maintain the best health possible and make a positive impact on your well-being.


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