I’ve written previously about the connection between oral health and general health, so you might wonder why I’m doing another blog on a similar topic.
You could be forgiven for asking: Didn’t we already cover this, Les?
Well, yes, we did. But there’s more!
And not only have I written about it, I spend my days educating patients and making them aware of how important good oral health is for their overall health. There’s no question it’s a topic I’m passionate about.
In my previous blog, we talked about the super highway to health in your body starts in your mouth. Now although I wrote about it as the start of a highway heading in one direction, the mouth is much more than that.
The mouth is a gateway. Like a window to your oral health, it’s the portal to discovering what else is happening in your body.
Your oral health: the gateway to general health
As a gateway, the mouth, together with the nose, are the main entry points for foreign things.
When it comes to bacteria and oral health, we’re striving to reach an ideal balance between the quality and quantity of microorganisms (such as good and bad bacteria).
How do we do that?
The best way to manage the balance of factors influencing the health in your mouth is to maintain a diligent program of oral hygiene. The two things over which you have direct control – and provide the biggest ‘bang for buck’ – are brushing and flossing every day.
While most people can wrap their head around cleaning twice a day, flossing holds less appeal, however it should never be overlooked. Why? Because although we have natural cleaning mechanisms, such as salivary flow and tongue movement over teeth, the reality is food particles get stuck in the difficult-to-reach nooks and crannies. This makes flossing – or interproximal brushes if the gap is wide enough – a pivotal line of defence in the war on bad bacteria.
So, we’ve cleared up that brushing and flossing are key to oral health by helping manage the quantity of bacteria in the mouth, but how do we take care of the quality of bacteria? Isn’t that out of our hands.
No! The great news is, you can help with this too.
How? By reducing the sugars in your diet and avoiding acidic foods . Rather than loading up on processed food, think healthy, natural wholefoods.
I’m not just talking about avoiding refined sugar either. I’m also referring to foods with naturally occurring sugars like, fructose, lactose, and glucose. It really is no myth that sugar causes havoc in the mouth and gives bacteria everything they love to survive and thrive. Without daily brushing and flossing, plaque can mature and harden over time forming a concrete layer impossible to brush away. This can lead to more serious disease, making a visit to your friendly, local dentist the only option for a thorough clean to reset the baseline of microflora in your mouth.
What if you’re doing everything right – and there are still issues with your oral health?
Sometimes we have patients at Define Dental who are doing all the right things – brushing, flossing, making regular dental visits, eating well, and following treatment advice – yet, their oral health isn’t what it should be.
When this occurs, it can be a pointer to other systemic conditions, such as diabetes (type I and II), which are sometimes diagnosed first by the dentist. It’s for this reason we say the mouth is the window to the rest of the body when it comes to understanding the connection between oral health and general health.
Another example is the recurrence of mouth ulcers. If a patient is doing all the right things and ulcers still appear, it could be an indicator of compromised immunity and deficiencies in iron, folate and vitamin B12. It may also be a pointer to systemic gastrointestinal disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Define Dental’s initial consult for new patients (other than those experiencing a dental emergency) considers these factors. In addition to asking questions about your general health and any recurrent issues, we undertake a thorough investigation of teeth and gums, as well as all of the soft tissues in regions that are not easy to get to or normally looked at by you or your general practitioner.
We approach the treatment of halitosis – otherwise known as bad breath – in a similar way. We first address the obvious issues of tooth decay, periodontal disease, oral hygiene routine, dietary habits, poor fitting dentures, and if issues still emerge, we must look deeper for the cause. In the case of halitosis, there are rare occasions where it can be linked to more sinister conditions such as cancer. For me, that’s a big motivator to keep up regular visits to your dentist for a thorough check and clean.
The key message here?
Oral health and general health is a two way street into which your mouth is the most important gateway. Look after it – in conjunction with your local dentist – and it will look after you.
Owned by Dr Les Jabbour, Define Dental is a Benowa dentist. As the Gold Coast’s premier dental practice providing quality dental care to local residents longer than any other, Define Dental has decades of experience of providing exceptional dental care for the local Benowa community and wider Gold Coast region. The team at Define Dental is experienced at working with patients to develop the tools and habits they need for good oral health and that help support your best general health. We work with all patients to assess and activate their oral health journey, and then support them with treatment and ongoing maintenance. Want to know more? Call 5597 2100 to book an appointment.