Keeping mouth, teeth & gums healthy is a worthy goal in itself. Good oral & dental hygiene can effectively help prevent tooth decay, bad breath & gum disease. Healthy mouth helps ward off a variety of medical disorders; researchers are no wonder discovering newer reasons to everyday brush & floss. Unhealthy mouths with gum disease are found to increase risk of serious health problems like preterm labor, stroke, heart attack & poorly controlled diabetes. Relationship between oral health & overall health give enough good reasons to take care of mouth. Therefore, in order to make investment in overall good health for now & in future, resolve to practice good oral hygiene everyday in our life.
Understanding the importance of oral health & its connection to overall health is therefore essential to living healthy lives. Picture inside our mouths reveal much about our general health. Swab of saliva or a peek inside our mouth will tell doctors volumes on what is really going on inside our bodies. Inside of our mouth in fact says plenty about our health.
There are many medical conditions which display oral signs & symptoms. Mouth serves as a window to what is going on inside the body. Serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting early warning of systemic disease which affects or pertains to not just one part but the entire body, conditions like diabetes or HIV/AIDS for example first become apparent with mouth lesions and/or other types of oral problems. It is observed that almost more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases actually produce oral signs & symptoms.
Doctors can collect & test saliva samples so as to detect a variety of substances. Cortisol levels in saliva are commonly used to test stress responses among newborn children. Certain fragments of bone-specific proteins are useful in monitoring bone loss among men & women prone to osteoporosis. Saliva is also used in detection of certain cancer markers. Routine testing of saliva is also utilized to measure hormones & antibodies indicating HIV infection or hepatitis, environmental toxins & illegal drugs. Ability to detect HIV-specific antibodies has in fact led to development & production of easy-to-use commercial saliva test kits. Saliva testing kits are also most likely to replace blood testing as means of diagnosing & monitoring diseases like diabetes, cirrhosis of liver, Parkinson’s disease & many other infectious diseases in future.
Saliva is also body’s main defense against disease causing organism like bacteria & viruses. Containing antibodies which attack viral pathogens like HIV & common cold, saliva also contains proteins known as Histatins which inhibit growth of naturally occurring fungus called Candida Albicans. Candida can grow out of control resulting in fungal infection called Oral Thrush when these proteins are weakened by HIV or other illnesses. Also containing enzymes which destroy bacteria in different ways, Saliva protects by degrading bacterial membranes, disrupting vital bacterial enzyme systems & by inhibiting growth & metabolism of certain harmful bacteria. Although saliva helps protect against some invaders, it does not provide a fool-proof protection system. There are more than 500 types of bacteria which thrive in mouth at any given time & which normally form dental plaque. Plaque is a sticky colorless film which clings to teeth & link to infection & diseases cause a variety of health problems.
Plaque can build up along gum-line & create environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in space between gums & teeth among people who do not brush & floss regularly. This type of gum infection is known as Gingivitis. Gingivitis gum infection when left unchecked leads to more serious gum infection called Periodontitis. Trench Mouth or Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis is a subsequent condition which is the most severe form of gum infection.
Normally, bacteria from mouth do not enter the bloodstream. Invasive dental treatments however, even through routine brushing & flossing in patients with gum disease, provide port of entry for these microbes. Antibiotics which disrupt normal balance of bacteria in mouth & medications or treatments reducing saliva flow also compromise normal oral defenses & allow these bacteria to enter bloodstream. Nevertheless, oral bacteria in bloodstream cause no problems in people with healthy immune systems which quickly dispense them preventing any infection. But in case of patients with weakened immune system due to any disease or cancer treatments, oral bacteria in bloodstream called bacteremia may assist developing an infection in another part of the body. Infective Endocarditis is one such condition which develops when oral bacteria after entering bloodstream sticks to lining of diseased heart valves due to this phenomenon.
Long-term gum infection eventually results in loss of teeth. Research suggests that there is close association between oral gum infections & cardiovascular diseases, poorly controlled diabetes & preterm birth.
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