By Debra S. Lowe, D.M.D.
Your teeth are more important than you may think.
The mouth is a vulnerable internal organ connected to the body by several pathways, the blood, nerves, stomach and lungs. It just might be the most difficult organ to maintain, but necessary to keep healthy for a healthier body.
Taking care of your mouth is extremely important to your overall health, and is not as simplistic as getting the split ends cut from hair.
Several months ago I wrote an article about the link between the health of the mouth and its link to the diseases of the body. I am writing on this subject again, because I believe it is extremely important to understand that an unhealthy mouth (teeth, gums, jawbone, TMJ) can be very detrimental to one’s health and quality of life; it can even be linked to death.
Centuries ago, oral infections such as a tooth or gum abscess, more than likely ended in death. The discovery of antibiotics helped.
However, even in the year 2016, some people ignore infections, live with the pain, and try home remedies that more often than not, aren’t fully effective in treating the problem.
People, especially the debilitated, still die from oral infections because the bacteria get into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
A few years ago, the news reported the story of a woman from Colorado, who had a toothache that was worsening. She went to the emergency room and landed in ICU on life support for five days. The doctors did not expect her to survive; but miraculously she did. The origin of the problem was traced back to a gum abscess.
Just last week I was watching the news. A man had a bad tooth. His boss urged him to go get help. He didn’t look good. He ended up having open heart surgery that afternoon. They related the problem to the tooth infection having traveled from his mouth through the blood to his heart and causing damage.
Some physical diseases go hand in hand with oral diseases. The old lyric, “The knee bone is connected to the shin bone,” holds true. The mouth is connected to the body.
People with diabetes are more than likely to have gum disease. Cardiovascular disease is linked to gum disease. Oral plaque is suspected to contribute to clogged arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Proteins found in infected gum pockets are the same as those found circulating after a heart attack. The inflammation factors in these pockets are the same as those associated with arthritis inflammation. Arthritic symptoms can be worse when the mouth has inflammation. Bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs, causing pneumonia.
The relationship between the mouth and body is so close, that researchers are working on isolating a factor in the saliva that might be able to detect pancreatic cancer at its early stages. Also, scientists are researching a factor that might tell doctors if a breast tumor is benign or malignant. Stem cell researchers are working with stem cells from the nerve areas of healthy extracted teeth (wisdom teeth, baby teeth) that potentially will grow new organs.
Physicians are realizing that oral health is so important that surgeons are sending patients to the dentist for oral health clearance before operations or cancer treatment.
We must keep a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria throughout our bodies, the mouth included.
So please be diligent about your oral health. It does matter. Be sure to practice good brushing and flossing techniques twice a day. Visit your dentist at least twice a year, more if it is recommended, and ask about the correct techniques to be sure.
A healthy smile does a body good!