Saliva Says a lot About Your Health
You may not think your mouth says much about your overall health, but oral health is considered a ‘window’ to wellness. Doctors can identify a lot about an individual’s health from just a simple saliva swab. Saliva contains proteins, hormones, enzymes and DNA that can be used to test for disease. Saliva testing is similar to blood testing, but is less expensive, and easier to collect and analyze.
Saliva testing detects a variety of substances, from cortisol, which indicates stress responses in newborns, to bone-specific proteins that indicate bone loss from osteoporosis. Even certain cancers, illegal drugs, environmental toxins, hormones and antibodies indicating hepatitis or HIV infection can be detected in the saliva. Saliva’s ability to detect disease has led to easy-to-use, commercial saliva test kits and the potential for saliva to replace blood testing for diagnosing and monitoring diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cirrhosis of the liver.
Saliva Debilitates Oral Bacteria & Viruses
Your body uses saliva to defend against bacteria and viruses that cause disease. Saliva’s antibodies protect against viral pathogens like the common cold and HIV while proteins inhibit the growth of fungus that naturally occurs in the mouth. Oral thrush is a fungal infection as a result of a weakened immune system causing an overgrowth of the fungus, Candida albicans. Saliva also has enzymes that kill bacteria by breaking down the bacterial membranes, preventing the growth and metabolism of certain bacteria, and disrupting vital bacterial enzyme systems.
Dental Plaque & Disease
Regular brushing and flossing is so important because it prevents plaque build-up that begins to form on the teeth just 4 to 12 hours after brushing. Plaque contributes to bad breath and can lead to early stages of gum disease, a condition called gingivitis. If you do not get gingivitis treated, it can develop into a more serious gum infection, periodontitis. An even more severe form of gum infection referred to as trench mouth or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, can occur as a result of neglecting oral care. If you do not have good oral health, plaque can mineralize into hard, yellow or brown deposits on the teeth called tartar, that can only be removed by a dental professional.
Oral Bacteria & Infection
Saliva is your bodies natural defense mechanism, washing away bacteria and infection. Typically, bacteria doesn’t enter the bloodstream from the mouth, but entry points can develop from invasive dental treatments or even just brushing and flossing if you have gum disease.
Disruptions to the bodies salivation flow and normal bacterial balance can compromise your mouths defenses and let bacteria into your bloodstream. A healthy immune system can handle the presence of oral bacteria in the blood and works to prevent infection. However, you can develop an infection in another part of your body from oral bacteria if you have a weakened immune system from disease. An example of this occurrence is infective endocarditis, which is when oral bacteria enters your bloodstream and sticks to the lining of diseased heart valves.
Bad Habits for Oral Health
Some habits you should avoid to ensure your mouth is healthy include, chewing/biting on nails or other objects. The constant chewing can slowly wear down and stress your teeth, causing them to misalign. Nail biting also makes your mouth more susceptible to plaque and bacteria build up. It is also important to not use your teeth as a tool for opening things or ripping/cutting items. Using your teeth for things like trimming threads can cause severe tooth damage.
Tongue and lip piercings can also potentially damage your teeth from biting it or as it rubs against your gums. Other factors to consider that may negatively affect your mouth are smoking or chewing tobacco and medicines with side effects that may harm your teeth. These factors lead to a dry mouth that lacks the saliva that is needed to protect our teeth and wash food particles away.
Another consideration is how hard you brush your teeth as brushing too hard can wear the teeth down and irritate the gums. Sugar is another factor that can cause tooth decay and poor oral health. Try to avoid overly sugary foods like sodas and candies and opt for sugar free gum. You should also be conscious of how long you expose your teeth to sugary foods and drinks, as the longer they are exposed, the more damage they can cause.
How to Keep a Healthy Mouth
Your oral health is just as important for your overall health as eating healthy or exercising. In order to avoid poor oral health, it is important to take good care of your teeth and mouth. Since plaque is the root cause of many oral health problems, flossing and brushing is crucial for maintaining good oral health.
You should brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay and strengthen teeth. You should also floss at least once a day to help prevent oral health issues like gingivitis. Brushing alone is not enough and does not reach the food particles and plaque stuck between your teeth, which is why flossing is so important. Other factors to consider that may negatively affect your mouth are smoking or chewing tobacco and medicines with side effects that may harm your teeth. These factors lead to a dry mouth that lacks the saliva that is needed to protect our teeth and wash food particles away.
Staying healthy includes maintaining good oral health and to do so, you should see your dentist at least every 6 months. Regular check-ups and cleaning help to keep a healthy mouth and ensure you do not have any oral health concerns. At Stroud dental, our team of experienced dentists and oral hygienists will put you and your health first. We are dedicated to making sure that our patients are comfortable and informed on how to maintain good oral health.
Contact us today to make an appointment and get your oral health up to date!
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