What does your summer smile say about your health?
August 27th, 2019
The summer holiday season is drawing to an end – but that means that doesn’t mean that the selfies have to stop there. Everybody loves to preserve and share their experience, and when it comes to holidays, many of us invest in our health and beauty to ensure we look and feel at our best from the get go. As the weather worsens, you’ll no doubt want to flick back through your holiday snaps to remind yourself. Taking good care of your teeth is a great way to make sure you are always looking at your most photogenic – not just while you are sunning yourself on the beach, but all year round. But did you know that new research has found that your smile can also real a lot about your wider health as well. Read on to discover more.
Your mouth as a health barometer
Your mouth provides a window into your health and can reveal a lot about your body. Scientists now know that good oral hygiene and tooth care is no longer just about preventing bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease – evidence indicates that it can also help to reduce the risk of many serious health problems including heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labour. Doctors and dentists are now able to find out a lot about your overall state of health from just a quick look at your teeth and saliva, making your mouth a barometer for your health.
Looking out for early warning signs
Did you know that many systemic diseases can now be recognised early on through signs and symptoms in your mouth? Because they affect the entire body and often present with many different symptoms, systemic diseases such as AIDS and Diabetes have historically been difficult to diagnose in their early stages, meaning they are often not treated until more serious symptoms have begun to develop.
It has now become apparent, however, that these illnesses often become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems long before other symptoms are presented. The Academy of General Dentistry now believes that more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms – which means they can be detected and treated much more quickly and in many cases, before they become more serious. As a result, there is huge potential to increase the quality of life and overall health of those suffering from such problems through much earlier intervention.
The secrets in your saliva
You may not be aware, but your saliva is able to reveal all kinds of secrets about your health and lifestyle. Outside of healthcare, routine saliva testing can be used to detect and measure a variety of things including illegal drugs, sports doping and more. Doctors can use cortisol levels in saliva to test for stress responses in newborn children, while the presence of certain bone-specific proteins may have an application in monitoring bone loss in women and men prone to osteoporosis. Certain cancer markers are also detectable in saliva, which has huge implications for the future prevention of the disease. At the same time, the ability to detect HIV-specific antibodies has now led to the production of commercial, easy-to-use saliva test kits, a concept which may well be expanded in the future for other tests. In the future, saliva testing may offer a less intrusive alternative to blood testing as a means of diagnosing and monitoring diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cirrhosis of the liver and many infectious diseases.
What does saliva actually do?
An average, healthy adult produces between 0.75 to 1.5 litres of saliva a day – which leads us to ask, what is the purpose of saliva. The saliva you produce is actually one of your body’s main defenses against disease-causing organisms, particularly bacteria and viruses. Saliva contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens, such as the common cold and HIV. It also contains proteins called histatins, which inhibit the growth of a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans. A HIV infection or other illness may cause this protection to be weakened. This allows the candida to grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection called oral thrush.
There are also many other valuable enzymes in saliva that destroy bacteria in different ways, helping to fight many bacterial different diseases. It achieves this by degrading bacterial membranes, inhibiting the growth and metabolism of certain bacteria, and disrupting vital bacterial enzyme systems.
The importance of a good oral hygiene regime
By following a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing and flossing regularly, you can help to prevent plaque from building up along your gumline. When plaque is able to form, it creates an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth, which in turn can lead to a common gum infection known as gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. In the most severe cases, patients may develop a gum infection called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth.
Risks of reduced immunity
In a healthy body, bacteria from the mouth don’t normally enter the bloodstream. If, however, you are suffering from reduced immunity this can increase your risk of developing illness. In some cases, something as simple as routine brushing and flossing can provide a port of entry for dangerous microbes, if there is underlying gum disease. In addition to illnesses themselves, medications and treatments can also reduce saliva flow, while antibiotics that disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth can also compromise your mouth’s normal defenses, allowing these bacteria to enter your bloodstream and leaving you more vulnerable to infection.
The presence of oral bacteria in your bloodstream usually causes no problems as your immune system quickly dispenses with them to prevent infection. If your immune system is weakened, for example because of a disease or cancer treatment, oral bacteria in your bloodstream (bacteremia) may lead to infection in another part of your body. One example is infective endocarditis, in which oral bacteria enter your bloodstream and stick to the lining of diseased heart valves.
It is advisable to speak to your dentist for advice on the best way to look after your oral hygiene if you are undergoing any kind of long term medical treatment or have been diagnosed with an illness.
Getting to grips with plaque
Research into the effects of plaque is fairly new, with doctors and dentists agreeing that much more research is needed. Although it has been known for a long time that long-term gum infection can eventually result in the loss of your teeth, it is now becoming evident that the consequences may not end there. Scientists believe that there may be an association between oral infections — primarily gum infections — and poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preterm birth. Oral infections appear to play a role in a number of conditions including:
Poorly controlled diabetes.
If you suffer from diabetes, you are already at increased risk of developing gum disease. But chronic gum disease may, in fact, make diabetes more difficult to control, as well. Infection may cause insulin resistance, which disrupts blood sugar control.
Cardiovascular disease and Strokes
Oral inflammation due to bacteria (gingivitis) may also play a role in clogged arteries and blood clots. Evidence indicates that bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries. This inflammation may serve as a base for the development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, which can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Some research suggests that people with gum infections are also at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The risk appears to worsen with the severity of the infection. Gum disease and tooth loss may also contribute to plaques in the carotid artery. In one study, 46 percent of participants who’d lost up to nine teeth had carotid artery plaque; among those who’d lost 10 or more teeth, 60 percent of them had such plaque.
It has recently been discovered that severe gum disease may be linked to an increased risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial In the United States, it is estimated that as many as 18 percent of preterm, low birth weight babies born each year may be attributed to oral infections. It is believed that toxins from oral bacteria reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream and interfere with the growth and development of the fetus. At the same time, the oral infection causes the mother to produce labour-triggering substances too quickly, potentially triggering premature labor and birth.
If you’d like to book an appointment now, ask for advice or enquire about becoming a member of Battle Road Dental Practice, call now on 01424 713051.