Healthy mouth, healthy body: How caring for your teeth and gums protects the rest of you | The Northern Daily Leader

Gum inflammation is a symptom of gum disease. Image Shutterstock
Gum inflammation is a symptom of gum disease. Image Shutterstock

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If you knew that harmful bacteria in your mouth could increase your risk of diabetes, would you be more careful in your daily dental care? What about heart disease, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease?

There is growing evidence showing the link between oral health and many chronic health conditions, but to the dismay of dentists and other health practitioners, most people are not aware of this connection.

The Australian Dental Association's 2022 annual consumer survey found that more than 65% of Australians are unaware of the link between the mouth and overall health of the body, while 20% only brush their teeth once a day and 75% only brush once a day. Say they rarely or never floss.

For Tamworth dentist Dr Vera Stephenson, these statistics are very worrying.

“I'm frustrated and surprised that so many Australians don't realize this connection and still think their teeth are isolated from the rest of the body,” said Dr Stephenson, who runs Tamworth Complete Dental.

“Today, untreated tooth decay is the most common health condition, and rates of gum disease continue to remain high in our communities.”

“More work needs to be done to get this public health message out to people and improve understanding of this proven link between oral disease and physical disease and why it makes the difference between good oral health and dental disease prevention. attention becomes more important.

bacterial overload

Research shows that bacteria in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream to different parts of the body, and inflammation in the mouth can increase overall inflammation throughout the body, Dr. Stephenson said.

“Any inflammation in the mouth can affect almost any inflammatory chronic disease—diabetes is one of the most severe. If you have inflammation in the mouth—gum disease—it can worsen your blood sugar control and make diabetes worse,” she says.

There is a huge relationship between gum disease and blood sugar control. One study shows that controlling a patient's gum disease can improve diabetes as much as taking diabetes medications.

The spread of bacteria from the mouth to the bloodstream may contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems. Image Shutterstock
The spread of bacteria from the mouth to the bloodstream may contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems. Image Shutterstock

Other identified risks include heart disease and stroke, as well as Alzheimer's disease, asthma and other lung diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as premature birth and low birth weight.

“Heart disease is a major disease—bacteria are constantly present, and there's a lot of blood flowing to it in the mouth,” Dr. Stephenson said. “When bacteria spreads from the mouth into the bloodstream, it can enter the heart and can cause inflammation and Development of cardiovascular problems.

“We're talking about bacterial burden throughout the body. Your body has to control inflammation and bacterial toxins, and if the bad bacteria in our gums release more toxins, then we increase inflammation markers and bacterial burden as you overrun the body At a threshold, all diseases become worse.

The connection between the mouth and stomach and the impact of oral disease on the balance of the important microbiome in the gut is another area of ​​concern, with growing evidence linking oral disease to inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.

Dr Stephenson said: “It's a continuous tube from our mouth to our intestines, so if we create an environment in your mouth for harmful, aggressive bacteria, you'll keep swallowing them. “

In our mouths, we have a whole microflora and community of different bacteria, but if the whole system is dysregulated, if we have gum disease where aggressive bacteria grow and they communicate with the gut bacteria, it can will begin to alter the body's immune response.

For the health of the next generation

Dentists and others in the healthcare industry have long called for measures to improve access to and use of dental services in Australia to address dental health conditions.

The Australian Government is currently considering a response to the recent Senate Inquiry into the provision and access of dental services in Australia, which has outlined a range of options to improve oral health by making dental care more affordable for all.

Dr. Stephenson would like to see a strong emphasis on preventive dental care, such as regular dental checkups, and change a culture that she believes is currently too focused on treating poor oral health.

She said any program to promote dental health needed to be accompanied by investment in education campaigns, similar to the successful Quit Smoking and Slip Slop Slap campaigns, to promote the importance of dental health to overall health and wellbeing.

“Dental care is not done in the right way – we approach dental health in a very reactive way, waiting for someone to have a problem and then filling it in and patching it up,” Dr Stephenson said.

But it's important that we change this approach and raise awareness about dental health so that we can keep our children growing up healthy and our next generation won't have the same problems again.

How parents can help their children maintain lifelong dental health from birth

Take control of your dental health to break the cycle of disease

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