Important Links Between Orthodontics and Your Overall Health That Everyone Should Know
Most people decide to straighten their teeth to gain confidence in their appearance or to improve their oral health. These are two excellent reasons to see an orthodontist! But there is another important reason to visit your ortho that people don’t often think of: to improve your overall health and well-being.
Have you heard the saying, the mouth is the mirror of overall health? Well, it’s true! Denis F. Kinane, BDS, Ph.D. said, “Any disease related to the mouth has an impact elsewhere in the body.”
Poor oral health is linked to serious general health problems, like Alzheimer’s and heart disease. As a long-time trusted orthodontist, I want to help my patients understand these links and the role that orthodontics plays, so they feel empowered to take excellent care of their teeth and bite, and ultimately prevent disease.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Heart Disease
Your mouth is full of bacteria – some are healthy, some are not. Research suggests that the bacteria present in periodontal disease, a serious gum infection, can travel through the body, causing inflammation in the heart’s vessels. (1)
The oral health-heart connection has been looked at for decades, but recent studies show just how closely the two are related. We now see that people with gum disease are nearly 50% more likely to have a heart attack or experience heart failure. (2) It’s quite shocking, I know!
Still, some people with heart disease have healthy gums and some people with gum disease never develop heart problems, so the correlation may not be direct. What the evidence does show is that maintaining a healthy mouth significantly reduces your risk of having heart problems in the future.
Gum Disease and Dementia: What Research Is Saying
This same process of harmful bacteria spreading from the mouth and throughout the body is also associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. (3) Recent studies suggest that this may be the result of bacteria traveling through the bloodstream and to the brain.
The common link between these diseases – gum disease with both dementia and heart disease – is inflammation. Disease is often the result of persistent inflammation in the body that goes untreated. So of course, the same holds true for your gums.
How Does Orthodontics Play Into This?
Straighter teeth are healthier teeth. This has always been clear to those of us who study orthodontics. Did you know that people with misaligned teeth and jaw have a higher risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay? (4) This is because when your teeth are not properly aligned, there are usually small spaces in your mouth that your toothbrush or floss simply can’t clean. Seeing an orthodontist is therefore the first step in maintaining excellent oral health.
Always remember that your orthodontist is a health professional. Be sure to tell them your health history and if you’ve experienced recent changes in your overall health. An expert orthodontist will collaborate with other health professionals to get you the treatment you need to prevent future health problems.
What Else Can You Do to Maintain a Healthy Mouth?
After your teeth and bite are properly aligned, you’ve got some basic maintenance to do every day to protect your oral health!
Here’s what else you should do to keep a healthy mouth:
Brush your teeth every morning and night
Floss and use mouthwash daily
Eat a healthy diet – limit sugary foods and drinks
Quit smoking if you do
Schedule dental checkups and cleanings at least twice per year
A Healthier Mouth Is a Healthier You
People once thought that eating healthy was merely to look slim, just as people widely believed that seeing an orthodontist was solely to get a prettier smile. While these results are still important for many reasons, the truth is that taking care of your body has deeper importance: thriving health, free from disease.
Do you feel that you or your child’s teeth need aligning? Book an initial consultation with me to determine the best course of treatment. You’re one step closer to a beautiful smile AND better health!