Benefits of a Healthy Mouth

As seen in the Consultant Connection May 2014 Issue
Submitted by Josephine Notter, RN, WCC, ICP Inc. Nurse Consultant

Maintaining good oral hygiene is an important part to overall health and well-being.  Brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly are some of the easiest ways to keep your mouth healthy. Regular check-ups help recognize changes in the mouth. A healthy mouth can boost confidence and self-esteem, preserve your memory, decrease your risk of heart disease and reduce risk of infection and inflammation in the body. 
Problems associated with an unhealthy mouth can affect us at any age. Gum disease and decay are not only unsightly but can produce odor that is offensive, affecting your confidence, self-image, and self-esteem. A healthy mouth that’s free from pain and infection increases your quality of life. Chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums has been associated with the development of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, blockages of blood vessels, and strokes. Maintaining oral health can help protect overall health, according to a report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
Poor oral health has been linked with the development of infection in other parts of the body as well. Research has found an association between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Experts say the mechanism of the destruction of connective tissues in both gum disease and RA is similar. 
As we age, teeth darken due to changes in dentin and consuming stain-causing food and beverages. The mouth becomes dry especially with medications and diseases that decrease saliva. Taste sensation decreases, roots become exposed, gum tissue recedes and plaque builds as we age. Poor fitting dentures and appliances, poor diets and poor hygiene can cause stomatitis. Diseases or drugs that affect the immune system can trigger the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in the mouth.
If you are experiencing a change or pain in your mouth, you need to see a dentist. Report your changes, loose or sensitive teeth, difficulty tasting, chewing or swallowing, pain, sores, bleeding in your mouth, lumps, bumps, swelling and discolorations.   
Aging is not the sole factor in determining oral health. Certain medical conditions, such as arthritis in the hands and fingers, may make brushing or flossing teeth difficult or impossible to perform. Using an antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste can help reduce the bacteria in the mouth that can cause gingivitis. Eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, and maintaining good oral hygiene all help reduce your risks of tooth decay and gum disease. Make sure to brush and floss daily to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy.