Many of us think of our mouths strictly in dental terms. However, the mouth is part of the body, and the mouth-body connection matters. In this report, Dr. Blake Perkins of Dental Sleep Medicine in Vancouver, Washington explains why good oral hygiene is important to general good health.
Dr. Perkins suggests that we think about the mouth as the gateway to the body. What is going on in the mouth can affect one’s overall health in many ways. Dental problems that are untreated can increase the risk of developing a host of other problems: stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Dental problems in pregnant women can affect the weight of pre-term babies.
Talking about specific kinds of problems, Dr. Perkins says that people who have periodontal disease double their risk of having some sort of heart disease, including blockage of coronary arteries, heart attack, or even a stroke. The bacteria in the mouth that get into the bloodstream carry proteins that encourage the blood to clot. When you think about the bacteria entering the bloodstream, it is easy to imagine how problems might occur.
Diabetes is another disease that can have a mouth connection. Dr. Perkins says that over 95% of diabetes patients have periodontal disease. About one-third of those people have so much disease that it leads to tooth loss. Because diabetics are more susceptible to infection, the periodontal disease can affect the rest of their bodies. Also, people with periodontal disease have difficulty controlling their blood sugar, a situation that can make diabetes worse.
Respiratory problems can also have a connection to dental problems. If the germs from periodontal disease are able to pass down into the respiratory tract, they can make people more susceptible to pneumonia and more likely to develop colds.
Dr. Perkins suggests that the first line of defense for people is to brush their teeth properly. That is the most important step because the act of brushing teeth removes plaque from the teeth, and plaque is the precursor to the bacteria that can lead to periodontal disease and other problems. Think of the mouth as hotel, he suggests, with rooms for both good and bad bacteria. Letting the bad bacteria run unchecked eliminates rooms for the good bacteria.
J. Blake Perkins, DDS, is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. He is the owner of Today's Family Dentistry of Vancouver, Washington, and he is an expert in the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). He spoke with Sleep Better TV, providing online sleep breathing disorder video news content. Sleep Better TV is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.