Your dentist will tell you, what seems like a million times, to take good care of your mouth, floss regularly, get your scheduled cleanings and of course to brush thoroughly. What most people often do not realize, is that great oral care is a gateway to taking care of your body. Our mouths act as a window into the health of our bodies and we can gain valuable insight about our overall health by assessing the current state of our mouths. The eight leading causes of death in America—heart disease, heart attacks, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia—can all have links to unsatisfactory oral conditions in the form of viruses, bacteria and inflammation. Inflammation in the mouth is not isolated, meaning that bacteria enters the bloodstream and travels through the arteries leading to harmful systemic effects in other places. 

Periodontal disease, more commonly referred to as gum disease, is one of the most common chronic infections in the United States and is often the largest source of inflammation in the body. Caused by the bacteria in plaque, it affects the tissues and bones which support your teeth. Your gums become red and puffy due to your body’s reaction to the infection. Gum disease is often left unchecked, becoming the most common reason why adults lose teeth. 

The initial inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. While the gingivitis itself can be reversed, if left untreated it can lead to more serious types of gum disease. Gingivitis has the potential to progress into periodontitis which is usually not painful but can result in bone loss. 

Warning signs of gum disease can show up in the following ways: 

  • Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • Redness, swelling, puffiness 
  • Tender and sensitive 
  • Lingering bad breath 
  • Feeling like your teeth are loose or that your gums no longer tightly hug them
  • Changes in the way that your teeth fit together when you bite 
  • Pus between teeth and gums 

Having gum disease has been shown to sometimes raise your risk and severity of chronic disease while certain chronic diseases have also been shown to make you more susceptible to gum disease. Taking care of your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly is a crucial component in maintaining overall, complete body wellness. While trips to the dentist may not be a fan favorite activity, maintaining a healthy mouth is an essential component in maintaining a healthy body.

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