Experts reveal links between oral hygiene and overall health

"If your mouth is not healthy it can affect the rest of your body."
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When it comes to taking care of your pearly whites, most Australians do a good job following the expert advice given to them by their dentists in their yearly checkups. 

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But apart from the obvious annual appointments, twice daily brushing, and flossing – there’s actually a whole lot more oral health-conscious Aussies need to keep in mind with taking care of their teeth. 

According to Dr. Susan Cartwright, a Colgate Advocate for Oral Health, many don’t realise the extent to which oral hygiene can impact their overall health. 

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She tells New Idea that it was important for Aussies to remember that the “mouth is part of the body.”

“If your mouth is not healthy it can affect the rest of your body.”

“Bacteria from your mouth can enter your bloodstream and cause disease, and inflammation in your mouth can contribute to disease in other areas of the body.”

Experts recommend that you brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes. (Credit: Getty)

According to Susan, ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s are all associated with oral disease. 

“For example, people with severe periodontal disease are twice as likely to have a heart attack and three times more likely to have a stroke compared to those with healthy gums,” Susan says. 

So how can you improve your overall oral hygiene apart from the obvious?

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day
  • Floss your teeth once a day
  • Use an electric toothbrush if possible as they clean teeth “significantly better” than manual toothbrushes (Susan recommends the Colgate Pulse Series 2)
  • Never share a toothbrush as you may accidentally pass on unwanted infections between users
  • Clean your tongue to reduce the overall bio-burden in your mouth (this will also keep your breath fresh) 
  • Use mouthwash to freshen breath and prevent large build-ups of plaque
Yearly dental check ups are also recommended to maintain good oral hygiene. (Credit: Getty)

Dentist and Endodontist Dr. Suhrab Singh from ClinicSpots says that despite the “exact mechanism” of how oral bacteria and inflammation affect the heart and blood vessels not being fully understood, experts have their theories. 

“Oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums and attach to the inner lining of the heart or blood vessels, causing endocarditis or atherosclerosis.” 

“Oral inflammation can [also] trigger a systematic inflammatory response that can damage the blood vessel walls and increase the risk of blood clots.”

Many do not realise how dental health can affect overall health. (Credit: Getty)

Dr. Suhrab Singh also describes diabetes as a health condition that has a “bidirectional relationship” – meaning that each condition can worsen the other. 

“On one hand, diabetes can impair the body’s ability to fight infection and heal wounds, making the gums more susceptible to bacterial infection and inflammation.”

“On the other hand, periodontal disease can increase blood sugar levels and make it harder to control diabetes, as well as increase the risk of diabetic complications such as nerve damage, eye damage, and kidney damage.”

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