How gum health affects overall health
We often think about dental health as separate from our overall physical health. Just because teeth require specialized expertise and care, however, doesn’t mean that your dental health doesn’t affect the rest of your body. Cindy Nichols, DMD, explained how gum health affects overall health and offered a few tips for keeping your gums healthy.
Bacteria in your mouth can end up everywhere else, too
“The bacteria that causes gum disease doesn’t stay in one place,” said Dr. Nichols. “That bacteria can travel throughout your body, feeding your entire system.”
Studies have shown that periodontal disease is linked to cardiovascular diseases, leading to stroke, heart attacks or other medical conditions. Oral infections are also linked to diabetes, rates of which are high in South Carolina. Advanced gum disease in pregnant people has been connected to low birth weight or premature births. There’s even a link between gum disease and inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
Taking steps to care for your teeth and gums is an essential part of maintaining optimal health overall.
Five tips for improving gum health
“We like to say that total body health starts in the mouth,” said Dr. Nichols. “And not just because we’re dentists! Taking time to care for your dental health can have positive effects for every part of your body.”
Get that stubborn toothache checked out right away. Simple cavities can quickly turn into serious decay or infection, requiring prolonged treatment and causing inflammation or even jaw pain. Treating the infection, removing and cleaning out the bacteria or even extracting an infected tooth often results in patients reporting increased energy or a lightened mood as their body is no longer struggling to fight off infection.
Don’t skimp on brushing. Dentists recommend brushing twice per day, morning and night, and also after meals. Make sure you spend about two minutes brushing your teeth each time.
Floss thoroughly. Yes, every time. Food particles trapped along the bottom of your teeth or in between them can cause the gum to become inflamed underneath, potentially leading to longer-term impacts like gum disease. Get comfortable flossing after meals and during your daily brushings. Even if it’s not perfect, any flossing is better than no flossing!
Be honest with the dentist. If you’ve gone a long time without getting your teeth checked, haven’t been flossing or you’re concerned about increased sensitivity … be honest! The better informed your dentist is, the more able they’ll be to care for you.
“Trust me,” Dr. Nichols added, “We don’t mind walking you through the best way to floss if you haven’t done it before, or you’re concerned you’re not flossing effectively. We’re happy to help you improve your dental health!”
Schedule your cleaning for once a year… at least. Dr. Nichols recommended patients schedule a dental checkup once per year for a cleaning and so your dentist can stay up to date on your health and well-being. In some cases, dentists may suggest you come in for a checkup twice per year, especially if you have already struggled with a gum infection in the past or for those with conditions that can affect your teeth and gums, such as Type-2 diabetes.
Find a doctor
Whether you’re looking for a primary care physician or need to see a specialist, we’re here to help with experienced, compassionate care near you.Find a Doctor