The practice of maintaining good oral hygiene is not just about preserving a radiant smile; it's a crucial part of overall health and wellness. Good oral health care practices can significantly help manage chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even some respiratory diseases. This connection, known as the oral-systemic link, is becoming increasingly recognized in the healthcare community.
Understanding the Oral-Systemic Link
The oral-systemic link refers to the relationship between oral health and overall health. Our mouths are teeming with bacteria, most of which are harmless. However, when oral hygiene is not maintained, these bacteria can reach levels that lead to oral infections such as gum disease and tooth decay. These infections can subsequently impact other parts of the body and affect our overall health1.
Oral Hygiene and Diabetes
People with diabetes are more prone to gum disease, which can, in turn, make diabetes harder to control. Inflammation in the mouth can weaken the body's ability to control blood sugar, making insulin less effective. A vicious cycle ensues because high blood sugar provides ideal conditions for infection to grow, including gum infections. Fortunately, managing gum disease through good oral hygiene can help control blood sugar, contributing to better management of diabetes1.
Oral Hygiene and Heart Disease
Research shows that people with gum disease have a higher risk of developing heart disease and suffering a stroke. The bacteria in the mouth due to gum disease can get into the bloodstream, causing inflammation of the blood vessels, leading to heart disease. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can help manage the bacteria and inflammation, reducing the risk2.
Oral Hygiene and Respiratory Diseases
Poor oral health has been linked to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The theory behind this link is that bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs, causing respiratory diseases. A healthy mouth, therefore, can potentially reduce the incidence of such conditions3.
Adopting Good Oral Hygiene Practices
Good oral hygiene involves regular brushing, ideally after each meal, and flossing at least once a day. In addition to this, regular dental scaling and polishing is crucial as a preventative measure and to detect any early signs of oral health problems. Dentists can remove plaque and tartar, and check for signs of gum disease and other oral health problems.
Prioritizing Oral Health for Overall Wellness
Oral hygiene plays a critical role in managing chronic conditions. As research
increasingly demonstrates the connection between oral health and systemic health, it
becomes more evident that preserving oral health is essential not only for
preventing dental problems but also for maintaining overall well-being. Remember,
your mouth is the gateway to your body, and taking care of it is a significant step
towards better health.
Please remember that while maintaining good oral health is important, it's just one aspect of managing chronic conditions. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, and regular health screening with your doctor are all crucial.
- Preshaw, P. M., Alba, A. L., Herrera, D., Jepsen, S., Konstantinidis, A., Makrilakis, K., & Taylor, R. (2012). Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia, 55(1), 21-31 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-011-2342-y)
- Humphrey, L. L., Fu, R., Buckley, D. I., Freeman, M., & Helfand, M. (2008). Periodontal disease and coronary heart disease incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(12), 2079-2086. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-008-0787-6)
- Scannapieco, F. A., Bush, R. B., & Paju, S. (2003). Associations between periodontal disease and risk for nosocomial bacterial pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A systematic review. Annals of Periodontology, 8(1), 54-69. (https://doi.org/10.1902/annals.2003.8.1.54)
About This Post and True Dental Studio
Information from this post was contributed by True Dental Studio and Dr Tay Chih Kien.
Dr Tay Chih Kien
Dr Tay Chih Kien is the Principal Dentist at True Dental Studio (Ang Mo Kio) with over 20 years of experience with special interests in Root Canal Treatment (Endodontics), Implant Dentistry and Invisalign. Dr Tay has seen patients from young children to the elderly, and has also been entrusted as the choice of a family dentist for many patients.
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