Many people believe if they have strong, healthy teeth, then they also have good oral health. The truth, however, is that good oral health involves far more than just teeth.
Dental health refers to the health of your entire mouth, including your gums, the roof of your mouth, your throat, your upper and lower jaws, your salivary glands, your tongue and your lips. Maintaining good oral health is about ensuring each part works appropriately and healthily as a member of the whole.
Many people want to maintain good oral health for the obvious benefits it offers: a more attractive smile and the lack of dental diseases. However, scientists have begun to link overall health with oral health. Your smile is also linked with your self-image. Because we communicate so much with a smile, feeling self-conscious about the appearance of your smile can really affect how others perceive you and how you see yourself.
The most basic link between dental health and overall health is nutrition. When teeth are misaligned, decaying or lost, the individualâ€™s diet can be adversely affected. A diverse diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is essential to living a healthier life. Poor dental health may also be associated with reduced self-esteem or self-confidence.
A study published in 2006 in the Journal of Community Nursing revealed that more than half of those who suffered from low self-esteem also suffered from some degree of dental disease. Untreated dental diseases can lead to receding gum lines, sensitive teeth, swollen or bleeding gums, tooth decay and tooth loss, which may all lead to patients feeling more self-conscious and unhappy with their overall appearance. Most patients need dental implants or some other form of restorative appliances to replace their lost teeth.
Periodontal disease is most frequently caused by a buildup of plaque, which creates inflammation in the gums. This chronic infection can spread throughout the oral cavity and infect the bones and other supporting structures of the teeth. This infection and inflammation increases an individualâ€™s risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimerâ€™s disease, dementia, preterm birth, miscarriage, pregnancy complications, respiratory infections and more.
Children who have untreated dental decay may suffer from altered eating and sleeping habits, and older children may even suffer from lower grades and increased number of lost school days, according to the World Health Organization.
Most dental diseases are entirely preventable with good dental hygiene and regular dental care. Brushing two times a day and flossing once a day can reduce plaque buildup. Visiting your dentist at least twice a year will remove tartar buildup and give your dentist an opportunity to assess your overall dental health and advise you on any changes necessary to improve it. Anyone with a history of dental disease, such as tooth decay or gum disease, should discuss prevention methods and treatment options with their dentist. A more frequent checkup schedule may be appropriate.