You probably know that taking good care of your teeth and gums helps you to avoid oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. But did you know that oral health problems can also affect your overall health and wellbeing?
As well as helping you avoid bad breath and toothaches, improving your oral health can also lower your risk of developing certain chronic diseases and improve quality of life.
Oral health and chronic disease
The most common oral diseases are tooth decay (dental caries) and gum disease (periodontal disease). These are caused by plaque, a film of bacteria on the surface of the teeth that can erode teeth enamel, irritate the gums and even lead to tooth loss over time.
People with severe oral health problems can sometimes find it difficult to chew and swallow normally. This can mean their bodies aren't getting the nutrition they need for optimal health, which can also make existing health conditions worse.
Studies have also shown links between poor oral health and an increased risk of chronic health problems including:
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease – linked to gum disease and total teeth loss
- Dementia – tooth loss from any cause may increase dementia risk
- Diabetes – linked to total loss of teeth and gum disease
- Kidney disease – oral health problems can be a warning sign
- Obesity – may be linked to severe gum disease (periodontitis)
- Oral cancer – linked to gum disease and use of mouthwash containing alcohol
- Respiratory disease – linked to missing teeth and eating difficulties Stomach ulcers – poor oral hygiene may increase risk factor
- Stroke – linked to gum disease and poor oral health
Gum disease in pregnant women has also been linked to premature delivery and low birth weight.
Oral health and wellbeing
As well as affecting physical health, oral health problems and orthodontic issues can also affect a person's feelings of self-esteem if they impact on their appearance or ability to speak normally. This may affect children's social development or lead to reduced participation at school, at work or in social settings.
What causes poor oral health?
Most oral health problems are preventable and are caused by how we treat our teeth, gums and mouths.
A diet high in sugar can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease developing, as sugar feeds the bacteria in plaque. Tobacco and excessive consumption of alcohol also increase risk factors for many oral health and general health problems.
Fluoride added to local water supplies helps to protect teeth from plaque, so you may be at higher risk if you don't live in a fluoridated area or you don't drink tap water. Not visiting a dentist for regular check-ups also means oral health problems may not be noticed until they have already started to cause harm.
How to improve your oral health
If you think that you or your family could be taking better care of your oral health, you can start making changes right away by improving your daily oral hygiene routine. Dentists recommend that you:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste and brushing for two minutes
- Floss once a day to clean between your teeth
- Drink water throughout the day, especially tap water containing fluoride
- Try to cut down on sugary, starchy and acidic food and drink
- Try to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleans
Do you need to see a dentist in Brisbane CBD?
If you're due for a check-up or you want some advice about improving your oral health, contact our friendly team at Face Value Dental today.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Oral health and dental care in Australia [Online] 2018 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia
 Dental Health Services Victoria. Links between oral health and general health: the case for action [Online] 2011 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: https://www.dhsv.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/2515/links-between-oral-health-and-general-health-the-case-for-action.pdf
 National Advisory Council on Dental Health (NACDH). Report of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health 2012. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing.
 Healthdirect. Dental care [Online] 2017 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-care