Your mouth is chock-full of bacteria: some play an important role in digestion, while others—called pathogenic bacteria—can cause infections, for example in your gums. Excellent oral hygiene is key to preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria, as mouth infections can sometimes have an impact on overall health.
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ORAL HEALTH AND OVERALL HEALTH?
In people who suffer from a severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, the inflammation, or swelling, can facilitate the passage of pathogenic bacteria into the bloodstream or airways. The bacteria can then cause infections in other parts of the body like the heart (pericarditis) or lungs (pneumonia, or a worsening of respiratory diseases like emphysema or chronic bronchitis).
There also appears to be a link between heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke and the inflammation caused by periodontitis.
In pregnant women, gum disease may also increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
Conversely, some diseases can have an impact on oral health. For example :
- Diabetes increases the risk of infection, including in the mouth. Gum disease is also more frequent, and more severe, in people who have diabetes, and diabetics with gum disease tend to have more trouble controlling their blood sugar levels.
- Sjogren’s syndrome causes chronic dry mouth, which promotes the growth of bacteria.
EFFECTS OF CERTAIN MEDICATION ON ORAL HEALTH
Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can lead to dry mouth while others can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections, including oral infections.
Your pharmacist can give you advice on how to reduce dry mouth and can offer solutions, so don’t hesitate to ask.
8 TIPS FOR GOOD ORAL HEALTH
- Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss or use an interdental brush daily to clean between your teeth.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwash if you have dry mouth
- Replace your toothbrush every three months or as soon as the bristles become frayed.
- Avoid tobacco (in every form).
- Limit your consumption of sweet or carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages (bacteria love them!).
- See your dentist if your gums become sensitive, swollen, if they bleed when you brush your teeth, or if you suffer from chronic bad breath despite proper oral hygiene.
- Have your teeth cleaned regularly by an oral health professional.
While your pharmacist may help with medication-related issues and can provide advice on oral health products offered at the pharmacy. For all other oral health problems, consult a dentist.