World Health Day and The Oral Systemic Link
Every April 7th, the World Health Organization chooses to highlight a special theme current in the wellness and medical world. The theme for 2022 is “Our Planet, Our Health.” Amid a pandemic, a polluted planet increases disease such as cancer, asthma, and heart disease. On World Health Day, it will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy.
Did you know that 90% of the population breathes unhealthy air? This is the result from burning fossil fuels. The world is heating up and there are more mosquitos spreading diseases further and faster than ever before. There is extreme weather and water scarcity that displaces people and affects their health. Pollution and plastics are found at the bottom of the oceans, the highest mountains, and have made way into food chains. Additionally, there are systems that produce highly processed, unhealthy foods and beverages that are driving a wave for obesity, increasing cancer and heart disease while generating a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Oral Systemic Link
What do these things have to do with the mouth? The mouth is the gateway to the body. The mouth is connected the rest of the body and is important when considering overall health. It is important to discuss the mouth and how to keep it healthy so that the rest of the body can be healthy too.
The immune system acclimates to the environment. The immune system is the body’s shield against all things that are out to the body harm. The body is constantly fighting off bacteria and viruses even while sleeping. It is incredibly powerful. Every time a person ingests germs or bacteria, the immune system works to destroy it. The immune system is trained do to whatever it takes to keep the body from getting sick. However, with bad diet, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and neglect, the immune system can become compromised and let harmful foreign viruses and bacteria in.
The human mouth and gut houses a huge number of microbes (bacteria) known as microbiome. There are about 38 trillion microbes in the gut. Additionally, the mouth is full of bacteria. Most of which are harmless but with the mouth being the entrance to both the digestive and respiratory tracts some of them can cause disease. Keeping the oral and gut microbiome healthy, primes the immune system to defend. The best start is to remove sugar and alcohol from one’s diet along with processed foods and harmful chemicals and additives. It is important to consume leafy greens and stay hydrated.
Bacteria from the mouth gets into the bloodstream and sets off an immune response. When bacteria grows out of control it can cause periodontal disease and tooth decay, also known as cavities. As these conditions worsen, bacteria can move from the mouth into the rest of the body. This sets off an immune response in the body and C Reactive Protein (CRP) is released from the liver. CRP is a substance that is released whenever there is some sort of inflammation.
In the short term, it is a natural and appropriate response. However, if CRP is released constantly (possibly due to the bacteria in the mouth causing inflammation), it can start off a chain reaction that eventually leads to other health conditions. Sustained high levels of CRP in blood stream have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and pregnant women with a heightened immune response can activate the baby’s immune system. Bacteria in the mouth can also lead to preterm birth which can cause health complications for the newborn. Studies suggest that oral bacteria and inflammation associated with periodontitis might play a role in diseases such as: endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy complications, and pneumonia. Individuals with diabetes or HIV AIDS may have lower resistance to infections, making oral health issues even more severe.
With good oral hygiene, such as daily brushing flossing, these bacteria are very controllable. However, without proper hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to a myriad of oral health issues. Dental calculus can be one of the easiest ways to spot signs that one is at risk of heart attack. Calculus builds up when the oral pH shifts which is related to the amount of calcium in the saliva. When there is too much calcium, the pH rises and plaque becomes calcified and hardens. As the body becomes less able to manage calcium, it builds up in places it shouldn’t such as the prostate, kidneys, and heart. It is likely that the teeth could be the first sign of this. Removing large pieces of calculus can be satisfying to dental professionals but if that amount is found on the teeth, imagine what might be happening to other organs.
Good Oral Hygiene Tips
Oral health is an indicator of overall health. Preventing oral health problems such as gingivitis and periodontal disease reduces the risk of more serious health issues throughout the body. There are a few tips to practice good oral hygiene:
- Brush for 2 minutes twice a day using fluoridated or non-fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from areas the toothbrush can’t reach.
- Eat a healthy diet to provide necessary nutrients specifically Vitamin A and Vitamin C to prevent gum disease.
- Visit the dentist and dental hygienist regularly for cleanings and exams. This is one of the most affective ways to detect early signs of any dental disease.
In conclusion, the intention of this article to inspire and empower the reader with simple tips one can start doing. When we are healthier, we are happier. When we feel better, we live more.