Doctors of South Melbourne welcomes our latest guest blog contributor, Dr Ian Malkinson from Dental on Clarendon.
Since being kids, we’ve all been told how necessary it is to practice good oral health. We may have kicked up a fuss when it came time to brush and floss before bed, but now as adults, it’s simply part of our daily routine.
Yet, as with most routines, it’s easy to become complacent and fall into bad habits. Sometimes we just need a little reminder of the importance of taking care of our teeth and gums.
As a dentist who’s passionate about promoting great dental hygiene, I can attest to the immense influence your mouth’s health can have on your overall well-being.
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
For many people, dental care is unfortunately considered more of a cosmetic matter than a health issue.
However, if your teeth and gums aren’t well taken care of, then your risk of being affected by other seemingly unrelated health conditions increases.
Below are just a few health conditions that have been attributed to poor oral health.
Gingivitis, also known as gum disease, has been linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease.
Gingivitis is caused by plaque build-up on your teeth. It can make your gums red, puffy and often bleed. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, where gums come further apart from your teeth capturing bacteria and becoming severely inflamed.
A common link between gingivitis and heart disease is inflammation; your body’s reaction to infection. The onset of worsening of heart disease is thought to be caused by the accumulation of inflammatory agents in your bloodstream.
Foreign bacterial invaders, again usually resulting from poor oral health that leads to inflammation, are associated with dementia.
Bacteria from an inflamed mouth can enter your blood and travel to your brain. When harmful bacteria continually inundate the brain, the body’s defence response can lead to nerve damage and memory loss.
Dementia is especially prevalent in elderly people. One theory is that a vicious cycle of poor oral hygiene that results from memory loss is at play. Poor oral hygiene can lead to advanced gingivitis, inflamed gums and an influx of harmful bacteria.
The cycle can be tough to break as physical and mental health deteriorates further.
Infections from the mouth, typically the result of cavities and gum disease, are thought to be associated with premature births and even under-weight babies.
So many women develop gum disease during pregnancy that it’s been named ‘pregnancy gingivitis’. Hormonal changes impacting the body’s management of plaque build-up are said to be blamed.
It’s thought that periodontal diseases cause an imbalance of inflammation-regulating cytokines proteins. The resulting inflammation in a pregnant woman’s body can lead to an early birth as the body believes it’s under attack.
Get on Top of Your Oral Health
Besides the above, other health concerns are thought to be indirectly linked to poor oral hygiene (and vice versa). These include:
- anorexia & bulimia,
- osteoporosis, and
Your best defence? Make sure your daily dental care routine is up to scratch. Floss, brush and gargle daily and keep an eye out for any signs of gingivitis.
Visit your dentist every six months as a minimum, even if you feel your teeth and gums are in perfect health.
Talk with your dentist or GP immediately if there are any signs of oral infection or lasting bad breath.
It’s much better to be safe than sorry.
Dr Ian Malkinson is a local dentist and principal of Dental on Clarendon. He has more than 20 years’ experience in both general and cosmetic dentistry.