From a young age, we are taught the importance of taking care of our teeth with brushing and flossing to prevent cavities and other painful oral conditions, but poor oral hygiene can lead to more than a toothache. Did you know that your oral health and general health are connected?
Research shows that poor oral health can be associated with several major health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This information is especially important for patients who are undergoing or considering orthodontic treatment, as appliances sometimes increase bacterial growth in your mouth which may lead to complications. Fortunately, our team is here to ensure your oral health is well managed so that your smile can remain happy and healthy.
How can my oral health affect my general health?
Your mouth can be a window into your body’s overall health and wellness as many signs of infection, nutritional deficiencies, and warning signs of serious health conditions often present themselves in your oral health. Your mouth is filled with countless bacteria, some good and some bad. The overgrowth of bad bacteria can cause tooth decay and periodontal disease, also known as gum disease.
Gum disease is a condition where bacterial growth within the mouth results in an infection of the surrounding and supporting soft tissue of teeth. One of the most common causes of gum disease is the build-up of plaque that hardens into tartar which can only be removed by professionals. This buildup irritates the gums causing them to become swollen, red, and recede. As they recede higher, the infection continues to spread and can lead to eventual tooth and bone loss.
Braces and other orthodontic appliances provide extra surface areas in the mouth for harmful bacteria to grow. We understand brushing and flossing can become difficult with braces in the way, however, it is a vital part of maintaining your oral health and hygiene. Failing to brush and floss daily with braces can impact your treatment, oral health, and increase your risk for other conditions.
Conditions Associated with Gum Disease
Harmful bacteria and infection can easily spread from the mouth to the rest of the body through the bloodstream. For patients with gum disease, the added bacteria in your mouth can increase your risk for infections and certain health conditions including the following:
- Heart disease
- High blood sugar and pressure
- Respiratory conditions
Although gum disease may contribute to these conditions, it is important to note that just because these conditions may occur at the same time, does not mean that one directly caused the other. Studies show that conditions that lower your body’s resistance to infection are likely to increase your risk for other health complications including oral health conditions.
Common signs of gum disease may include the following:
- Bad breath
- Frequent mouth infections
- Gums that bleed when you floss or brush
- Loose teeth
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Swollen, red, and tender gums
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms, bring them to our attention as these signs may be signs of gum disease or other serious health conditions.
Orthodontic Care and Good Oral Health Practices
If you have gum disease or a serious condition that can increase your risk of bacterial infections, orthodontic treatment may or not be possible. In moderate to severe cases, gum disease can cause your teeth to shift into undesirable positions during treatment. In other cases, the inflammation of gums may cause bleeding and sores due to friction against the appliances during treatment which can lead to infection. These complications may cause treatment to stop early to avoid increasing patient risk of infection. However, that doesn’t mean that if you are diabetic and have gum disease you are unable to receive orthodontic care. We will conduct a thorough evaluation of your teeth to determine the best course of treatment for your needs to ensure your oral health. Always tell your oral health care team about any changes in your health, especially if you have other health conditions such as lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease as well as any medications you are on as these may affect your treatment and oral health.
To best protect your mouth, it is important to practice good oral health practices regularly and attend routine professional cleanings throughout the year. You should brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a 45-degree angle with an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste. Flossing helps to remove plaque and food particles that can’t be removed with brushing and we recommend patients floss at least once a day. You should replace your toothbrush every three months or once the bristles begin to break down.
Though brushing and floss can be your main defense against oral complications, routine exams and cleanings are also important as our staff is trained to identify and treat oral health conditions and look for signs that may cause concern. For more information about the importance of your oral health or to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. L’Tanya Joy Bailey, DDS today.