Oral Health : A Healthy Mouth for Overall Wellness

Good oral health is important to your overall health -- a fact that is often overlooked. But when you think about it, the mouth is the gateway to the body, making oral health a significant player in your overall well-being.

The mouth is filled with countless bacteria, most of which are harmless. With daily brushing and flossing, the body's defenses can fight and control those bacteria. Without proper oral care however, the bacteria can cause oral infections that affect the teeth, gums, palate, tongue, lips, and inside of the cheeks.

The American Dental Association recommends seeing a dentist if you notice any of the following signs:

• Gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
• Red, swollen or tender gums
• Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
• Persistent bad breath
• Pus between your teeth and gums
• Loose or separating teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures

General guidelines for good oral hygiene include brushing teeth thoroughly at least twice a day, flossing daily, replacing toothbrushes every three or four months, and scheduling regular dental check-ups. Daily preventative care can stop problems before they even develop.

The mouth can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection, including systemic diseases. Oral health may affect or contribute to diseases and conditions including but not limited to:

• Cardiovascular disease -- research suggests that chronic inflammation from gum disease may be linked to heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke.

• Pregnancy health -- research suggests a relationship between gum disease and pre-term, low-birth-weight infants.

• Diabetes -- uncontrolled diabetes puts the body at risk for gum disease. Research shows that people with diabetes are more likely to have severe gum problems and have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.

• Inflammation -- poor oral health is associated with the development of infection in other parts of the body.

• Memory -- research suggests that people with swollen, bleeding gums perform worse on tests of memory and other cognitive skills than those with healthy gums.

• HIV/AIDS -- people with HIV/AIDS are more likely to experience oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions.

It's never too early to teach proper oral care to children. Practicing good oral care at a young age can positively impact children's health in adulthood. For more information, visit CarilionClinic.org.

Column provided by Carilion Clinic
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©2014 The Floyd Press (Floyd, Va.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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