The importance of dental hygiene – a window onto your overall health

Despite being one of the most preventable diseases, tooth decay, also known as dental caries, has been increasing in the USA, as has the incidence of Gum Disease. It is important to recognize that good dental health leads to good overall health. Here I will help you understand why.

Good dental hygiene can help prevent dental caries, bad breath and gum disease. However, recent studies have found more reasons to maintain daily brushing and flossing. It is now well established that a healthy mouth is associated with the overall well-being and health of the rest of the body, particularly influencing the following three conditions: diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and premature birth of a child.

Anyone with diabetes is at greater risk of developing gum disease, and poorly controlled dental hygiene can exacerbate the condition, due to insulin resistance and poor healing capacity. Moreover, poorly maintained oral hygiene can lead to bacterial inflammation (gingivitis) and cause inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can in turn cause atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, leading to arterial clogging or blood clot infection – one form of cardiovascular disease. Finally, increasing research findings have recognized the risk for premature labour and low-birth-weight infants in cases of maternal gum disease. The studies suggest that the bacteria that cause gum inflammation (gram-negative bacteria) and the endotoxins released by these bacteria can enter the mother’s bloodstream and target the foetus, potentially triggering premature labour. Collaboration between the general medical, gynecological and dental professionals should therefore be an integral part of managing a pregnant patient.

Furthermore, the mouth can be a first point in detecting signs or symptoms of other systemic diseases, such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS. The US Academy of General Dentistry reports that more than 90 per cent of systemic conditions carry oral or dental-related signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is important and beneficial to visit the dentist or hygienist on a regular basis for early detection of any diseases.

The importance of oral health and its connection to our overall health and well-being is widely documented. In order to maintain good oral hygiene, it is crucial to practice good daily home care (brushing and flossing) and to visit the dentist or hygienist on a regular basis.