Why Good Oral Health Means Good Overall Health
The desire to have a healthy mouth, teeth and gums is everyone’s goal. If you pursue good oral hygiene, you’ll more than likely prevent having bad breath, tooth decay, or any form of gum disease for the rest of your life.
Even up to this day, researchers are still discovering more essential reasons to brush and floss – most of which contribute to your health. Conversely, individuals who have unhealthy mouths are bound to develop gum disease and worse, are at risk of serious health problems like strokes, heart attacks, poorly controlled diabetes, and preterm labor for pregnant women.
What’s inside your mouth says a lot about your health. A dentist can tell a lot about your overall health just by looking inside your mouth.
Several health conditions can cause oral problems.
Your mouth serves as a window to your body because it helps detect early signs and symptoms of a systematic disease – a type of disease that affects the entire body and not just one part alone. AIDS and diabetes are the two best examples of these diseases because they first become apparent as mouth lesions or other dental problems. Be aware of common dental problems that come with aging, such as the wearing of enamel and dry mouth.
Saliva: A diagnostic tool
A doctor can determine a variety of substances by just testing a collected amount of saliva. Cortisol levels in saliva, for example, are used to test stress responses in newborn babies. Moreover, fragments of some bone-specific proteins are used to monitor bone loss in men and women who are prone to osteoporosis. The saliva is also a detectable component for cancer markers.
Testing a person’s saliva can also measure the existence of substances in the body, including illegal drugs, indicators of hepatitis or HIV, environmental toxins, and more. The development of saliva test kits is actually made possible through the detection of HIV-specific antibodies.
How saliva protects the body against harmful invaders
The saliva also serves as your body’s defense against bacteria and virus. Through its antibodies, it can shield the body against viral pathogenic attack like in common colds and even HIV. The saliva also contains proteins called histatins, responsible for impeding the growth of Candida albicans (naturally occurring fungus). If a certain illness like HIV infection weakens these proteins, the candida may grow out of control resulting in a fungal infection, or what we call oral thrush.
The saliva contains enzymes that degrade bacterial membranes, inhibit the metabolism and growth of some bacteria, and disrupt the development of vital bacterial enzyme systems.
Mouth: A source of infection
Though you may say that your saliva helps protect your body from invaders, it can’t always do its job. As a matter of fact, over 500 species of bacteria get inside your mouth and these bacteria constantly create dental plaque – a sticky, colorless film that clings to the teeth and commonly causes dental problems.
If you fail to brush your teeth regularly, the plaque will build up along your mouth’s gumline and it will create an environment where other bacteria can accumulate in between the gums and teeth. This gum infection is called gingivitis and it can lead to periodontitis – a more serious bone and gum infection – if left untreated. Beware of acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (trench mouth) as it is the most serious form of gum infection.