We all know a healthy smile improves social interactions, communication and the ability to perform well in the workplace, but there's a lot more to the oral health equation. The National Academy of Medicine reports that oral health is directly connected to good overall health, and oral diseases can even exacerbate health problems outside of the mouth.
First, let's look at the unexpected ways gum disease can derail your agenda.
The Heart of the Matter
What most people don't know is that poor oral health has been linked to several heart issues, including an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with gum disease have nearly double the risk for heart disease as those with healthy gums. Chronic inflammation from gum disease can raise cholesterol levels, and poor dental health can increase your risk of a bacterial infection in the bloodstream.
If you're diabetic, stay vigilant. Gum disease is more frequent and severe in diabetics, and it can cause difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels.
But it's not just about the heart. Adults miss an estimated 164 million hours of work due to oral health problems each year while often preventable oral diseases send more than 2.1 million Americans to the emergency room each year.
Untreated oral diseases can cause problems with eating, speaking, learning and productivity, while oral pain and problems can also lead to bad dietary choices that only further damage overall health. Studies show there's even a link between premature birth and low birth weight to expectant mothers with gum disease.
The Best Defense
While nearly half of U.S. adults have some degree of gum disease, here's why you shouldn't panic:
Gum disease, as with most oral diseases, is almost entirely preventable.
Fight the good fight by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily and making regular visits to your dentist (read: not just when you have a toothache). With an oral exam, your dentist can potentially detect signs of more than 120 diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Early detection can make treatment easier, less costly and even lifesaving.
Lauren Carrigan is the marketing and communications Strategist for Delta Dental of Arkansas. Lauren has a decade of experience crafting content for a mix of brands and a love for traveling.