While no one underestimates the importance of good oral hygiene it turns out that proper dental care could reach much further than just the health of your teeth.
Mounting research indicates that toxins in tooth and gum plaque can lead to inflammation in the body that in turn can contribute to heart and other diseases. Conversely those who are treated for gum disease have actually had their arteries become healthier. Researchers have even suggested that treating gum disease could reduce the risk of arthritis, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, stroke and sign of aging such as wrinkles.
“The mouth is the gateway to the heart,” says Dr. Kevin Marzo, “and there’s clearly a link between poor dental health and cardiovascular conditions.”
Not only can the condition of your mouth affect your heart health it can be a window into your sexual health as well. Both HIV and HPV often exhibit their first symptoms in the mouth.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. and is also responsible for nearly 65% of all cases of oral cancers. If doctors routinely check for warts, lesions and ulcers of the mouth, tongue and throat many of these cases could be treated.
Bright red lines around teeth or a fungal infection of the tongue, called thrush, can be an early indicator of the presence of HIV. Thrush is caused by the same fungus as yeast infections and jock itch and can also be a sign of diabetes, hormone imbalances or a reaction to certain products so while it may be relatively harmless it may be worth testing for HIV in patients with other risk factors.
Bad breath isn’t just a nuisance it can also be a sign of serious health problems that could require medical attention. Diabetes, kidney or liver problems, respiratory infections and acid reflux can all cause bad breath making this another good indicator for health professionals that further tests may be needed.
If good dental care is so important to our overall health it is a shame that dental coverage remains elusive, even for those with health insurance, and so many are unable to afford regular cleanings and preventative care. Perhaps as more research becomes available as to the connection between our teeth and our overall health dental care will become more readily available to the masses.