The dreaded question that comes at every appointment is, “How often are you flossing?” It is time consuming and, yes, we are tired before bed, but flossing is much more than cavity prevention. Usually we give a sheepish grin saying, “I should be better.” Before I became a hygienist, I admit I was not a consistent flosser. I am proud to say that I am now a religious flosser. Periodontitis and gingivitis can be prevented by flossing. If these diseases go untreated, the whole body can be affected by the amount of bacteria in the body’s blood stream. Here are some ailments that can be aggravated: cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, COPD, premature birth and low birth weight babies. The body is one working unit and the mouth is no exception to inhibiting or bettering our health.
Cardiovascular Disease is a collection of plaques that cause atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a thickening and hardening of arteries. Studies have shown over 40% of artery lesions contain oral bacteria. At this point, inflammation is created by the influx of blood cells which can create a blood clot, reducing blood flow to the heart. This can eventually cause a heart attack.
Most diabetic patients are aware of their decreased ability to heal. There is no exception in the oral cavity. Diabetes decreases the body’s ability to kill bacteria. Inflammation is also increased throughout the body and in the mouth with diabetes. Research studies have shown higher numbers of inflammatory agents in the gums of those with poorly controlled diabetes then those patients with healthy levels. Diabetic and periodontal health goes hand-in-hand. If the mouth is unhealthy then diabetes is worsened and vice-versa.
One of the functions of the oral cavity is to be the gateway of the respiratory system. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and pneumonia have been linked to poor oral health. The mouth can be a reservoir for respiratory bacteria. Bacteria like Staphylococus have been shown to accumulate on the teeth. The bacteria can be in the saliva and then aspirated in the lungs causing infection.
The oral cavities health can also affect pregnancy. The mother provides everything for the child. She tries to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep and much more. Bacteria in the oral cavity can adversely affect the baby as well. Periodontal disease can cause premature birth and low birth weight. Bacteria as stated above can cause inflammation. Contractions of the uterus are caused by hormones and by substances called prostaglandins. These contractions are most common in the third trimester. Chronic infection like gingivitis and periodontitis can cause premature labor. Another study has shown bacteria from the gums in the placenta causing preterm birth.
Most people see the dentist more often than their medical doctor. The dentist or hygienist can help monitor a patients overall health. We can suggest a smoking cessation program, oral care products, monitor blood pressure, or promote good nutrition habits. All of these suggestions are correlated with great oral home care. Our team has a true desire for all patients to have whole body health as well as oral health.