We all know that a nice smile is one of the most noticeable and attractive qualities of our appearance. Also a mounting body of evidence tells us about the importance of mouth body connection.
A simple examination of the mouth tells a lot about a person’s health. The mouth is the gateway to the entire body and is a major influence on important areas, including the digestive tract, heart, circulatory system and the brain. Science is discovering that the mouth also plays an important role in the body's long-term health. Genetics, exercise, nutrition, stress and personal habits contribute to an individual's overall wellness also.
The mouth is home to our sense of taste. Saliva or breath can be valuable indicators of uncontrolled diabetes. The mouth's mucous membranes are full of blood vessels that provide a ready connection to other parts of the body. For example, drugs placed under the tongue, like nitroglycerin pills for chest pain, are rapidly absorbed through the membranes into the circulatory system.
There is a 2 way street of cause and effect.
On one hand oral disease can lead to systemic disease, and on the other hand systemic disease and medications can lead to oral disease and breakdown. Some saliva tests can help determine the health of other systems in the body.
There is mounting evidence of the role the mouth and periodontal medicine play in conditions such as strokes, coronary artery disease, low birth weight, osteoporosis, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and diabetes. According to studies, bacteria found in dental plaque are feared to be entering the bloodstream and causing clotting in arteries.
There is also evidence that medications and medical conditions can lead to deterioration of oral tissues. For example there are thousands of medications which reduce saliva flow leading to more gum disease and tooth decay. GERD (Acid Reflux), and Bulimia, lead to erosion of the tooth enamel and loss of structure. Stress induced clenching and grinding wear and fracture teeth, periodontal disease, and lead to TMJ symptoms and headaches. Sleep Apnea can lead to tooth grinding, dry mouth and other serious medical conditions.
Dermatologists often check the mouth to determine a skin diagnosis or detect sexually transmitted diseases. Cardiologists continue to theorize about how much bacteria in the mouth triggers inflammation and immune system response inside the arteries.
The mouth-body connection is also apparent in our nutritional habits. It is interesting to note that there are people around the world who have never used a toothbrush or flossed. Nevertheless, they have lived their entire lives free of cavities and gum disease. Here in the United States, however, there are millions of people with tooth decay or gum problems even with a daily brushing and flossing routine. Why? Poor diet, processed food and personal habits play a major role in these dental problems.
It is wise to consume alkalinizing foods that encourage saliva production, particularly fruits, vegetables and seaweed products. Drinking plenty of water and fruit juices is also recommended to supplement saliva flow and maintain healthy teeth.
When we ingest too much sugar, flour, bread, grains and meat, the saliva's alkalinity drops and causes a buildup of cavity-causing acids. While these foods are often part of our daily diet, they should be combined with fruits and vegetables to reap the nutritional and saliva-inducing benefits. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they are the "founding fathers" of dry mouth ... and bad breath!
Proper mineral balance also goes a long way in preventing tooth decay. Calcium is the most important mineral for protecting your teeth. The amount and type of calcium in the diet must be considered, along with a balance of iron, potassium and magnesium, as they all encourage salivary activity.
Dentistry has come a long way.
Patient friendly procedures and prevention are hallmarks of the modern dental practice. Good homecare, and proper nutrition can go hand in hand in making regular visits to the dentist something to smile about.
Here’s to good health and great checkups.