Your mouth and body are connected!

Dental hygienist provides oral hygiene education.
Royal Canadian Dental Corps Dental Hygienist, Sergeant Amanda Madronic of 1 Dental Detachment Esquimalt practices patient-partnered care by providing oral hygiene education to Corporal Riley Pigeon. Dental hygienists within the Royal Canadian Dental Corps practice preventive oral healthcare and health promotion. Photo: Captain Mary Cho

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By Sgt Amanda Madronic, 1 Dental Unit Detachment Esquimalt

April is Oral Health Month, and we would like to bring awareness to how your mouth and body are connected.

Taking care of your teeth, gums and surrounding tissues benefit your overall physical and mental well-being. Poor oral health has been linked with the development of infection in other parts of the body. Here are a few examples:

  • Heart Disease/Stroke
    Chronic inflammation from periodontal (gum) disease has been associated with the development of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, blockages of blood vessels, and strokes. The bacteria that causes gum disease may travel from the mouth into the cardiovascular system, contributing to clotting problems.
  • Uncontrolled Diabetes
    Diabetics are more likely to develop gum disease, which in turn can increase blood sugar and diabetic complications. Inflammation from gum disease can make it even harder for insulin in your body to do its job.
  • Respiratory Infections
    Dental plaque build-up causes bacteria that can be inhaled into the lungs. Inhaling bacteria from the mouth and throat can lead to pneumonia.
  • Preterm or Low Birthweight Babies
    Women with advanced gum disease may be more likely to give birth to an underweight or preterm baby. Harmful bacteria can cross the placental barrier, exposing the fetus to infection.

 What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque build-up between the gums and teeth. When bacteria begins to accumulate, the gums can become inflamed. This can result in gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). The bacteria can spread the inflammation into the bone around the tooth resulting in periodontitis. This causes inflammation, which can lead to loss of bone and supporting structures such as gum tissue.

What can you do?

  1. Brush your teeth. Brushing at least twice a day helps remove food debris and plaque from your teeth and gums. Don’t forget to brush your tongue also.
  2. Floss. Flossing at least once a day helps remove food particles and plaque between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.
  3. Swish with mouthwash. Using mouthwash can help reduce bacteria.
  4. Know your risk factors. Age, smoking, diet, genetics and medical conditions such as diabetes can increase your risk for periodontal disease.
  5. Visit the dentist for an annual exam. This comprehensive exam will help keep your medical and dental information up-to-date. This will provide insight into your oral and overall health, and mark the beginning of a lifelong partnership between you and your dental team.
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