The Mouth-Body Connection: What Is It?

A woman with a toothache looks worriedWhen you head into the doctor’s office with a problem, can you think of one of the first places your doctor will examine you? You may not think of your mouth at first, but your doctor will always take a look to see the condition of your oral health. Contrary to what people may think, the mouth is the gateway to the body, and as a result could be the cause for a few bodily health issues. At Perio NYC, we always want to emphasize the importance of a healthy smile, and, in honor of National Dental Hygiene Month, we want to emphasize what a healthy smile means for your body.

The Window to Your Bodily Health

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then your smile is a glimpse into your bodily health. According to studies, such as the Proctor & Gamble teeth whitening study, results have shown that people view a white, clean smile as a healthy smile, reflective of a healthy person. While this study primarily focused on teeth whitening, it still showed that attraction we have to a perceived healthy person. But at both your doctor and dentist office, we understand the correlation between a healthy smile and a healthy body, and that if one system becomes infected it can influence the other.

For example, when you visit the doctor for a cardiovascular or respiratory issue, they may notice that your gums are very red and covered in plaque as well. Or if you have nutritional problems, the source may be due to tooth loss, or pained and weakening teeth. In these cases, they may recommend that you visit a dentist as well for further diagnosis or treatment.

Conditions Associated with Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an extreme form of gum disease that causes redness, bleeding, and pain in the gums. It’s also being focused on as the potential cause of a lot of health problems. It’s long been studied and speculated that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can travel to other parts of the body and cause problems. In fact, a recent study found that fusobacteria, found prevalent in periodontal disease patients, can accelerate tumors in colon cancer. It’s a worrying thought, but makes it all the more important to take care of your oral health. Other researchers are currently studying links between periodontal disease and diabetes, heart disease, respiratory conditions, and more.

Unfortunately, there is no way to keep bacteria out of your mouth completely. They are mostly benign, washed away by your saliva and water consumption. During routine hygiene visits to your dentist, their team will keep an eye out for warning signs of gum disease and tooth decay. By catching these problems early, they can be treated and prevented from worsening. However, this is not the sole responsibility of the dentist, but requires some upkeep on your part at home.

Risk Factors

In addition to proper dental care, there are a few other factors and recommendations that patients should keep in mind when it comes to caring for their teeth.

  • Poor Diet: There are food and beverages out there that can help keep your teeth strong and healthy, but be wary of items filled with hidden sugars. Patients who consume large amounts of sugary or acidic foods have a greater risk for garnering gum disease and other oral health problems.
  • Tobacco Use: The chemicals in tobacco and tobacco smoke can lead to yellowing of the teeth, bad breath, and exposure to oral diseases. Tobacco use also has overarching health risks, including higher risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and more.
  • Stress: Experiencing stress at home or at work can lead to teeth grinding and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Consider reducing your caffeine consumption as well, or talk to your dentist about wearing a nightguard to prevent grinding.
  • Hygiene Neglect: In general, poor oral hygiene habits can lead to festering bacteria on your teeth, causing cavities and gum disease. These include forgetting to brush or floss at least twice a day, neglecting to visit the dentist, or choosing to stick to an unhealthy diet (see above).

Ways to Protect Your Teeth

These are just a few examples of methods to keep your teeth clean while you’re away from the dental office. If you have any questions, contact us for clarification.

  • Fluoride and Sealants: Fluoride is an element that keeps your enamel strong against acid waste from bacteria. However, for an even stronger barrier against tooth decay, we also recommend sealants, a plastic coating that encompasses the entire tooth.
  • Rich Diet: If you’re looking for a healthy snack that’s easy on your teeth, consider crunchy apples or carrots as a fibrous snack. In addition, leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and spinach contain folic acid, which helps fight against plaque.
  • Proper Tools: Electric toothbrushes can be gentle and ideal on the teeth, but can also cost more. If you choose manual toothbrushes, keep in mind that they should be swapped out every 3 to 4 months. Make sure you have plenty of floss, or invest in a flossing brush to clean those hard-to-reach places in your smile.
  • Periodontal Disease Therapy (Surgical and Non-surgical): Perio NYC offers both surgical (pocket depth reduction or guided tissue regeneration) and non-surgical (scaling and root planing) treatments to cure periodontal disease. The severity of your disease will determine which treatment will be best for you.

Save Your Mouth-Body Connection in NYC

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons to take care of your smile. If you allow disease to weaken your gums and teeth, it could negatively impact your bodily health as well. This could be especially troubling for patients who have a certain medical history, or family history, of diabetic, heart, or lung problems. If you’re unsure about the state of your oral health, we recommend that you contact us at Perio NYC for an evaluation.

Don’t wait until you’re in the emergency room to address a dental issue that could be the root cause of your ailment. If you’re experiencing any pain, redness, excessive bleeding, or weakened teeth, we can help solve these problems before they worsen. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation.

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