Good oral health and hygiene are essential elements of healthy living and well-being. That’s why Bloom Financial Services is committed to bringing you the facts during September, which is Oral Health Month. A report by WITS shows that up to 60% of South African schoolchildren suffer from dental decay and more than 80% of these children will not receive treatment for the condition. Find out if you’re at risk for any oral health conditions or diseases and get medical insurance cover for basic dentistry.
What is oral health?
Good oral health means that your mouth looks, feels and smells healthy. However, oral health problems extend beyond just your teeth and gums. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even certain types of cancer. According to The World Health Organisation, here are some little-known facts about oral health and hygiene:
- 3.6 billion people suffer from oral diseases, which can cause a lifetime of pain, discomfort and even death
- Untreated dental cavities are the most common oral health condition with more than 530 million children, worldwide, suffering from this condition
- Gum disease affects almost 10% of the global population
- Oral cancers (those which affect the lip or mouth) are one of the three most common types of cancers
- Low and middle-income countries are often unable to provide services for, prevent or treat oral health conditions
What are the symptoms of oral health disease?
Toothache and bleeding gums of some of the most recognised symptoms of oral or dental problems, but there are a number of other warning signs that are indicative of poor oral health. We recommend scheduling an appointment with a Momentum CareCross Network dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent pain when chewing your food
- Chronic halitosis (or bad breath)
- A clicking jaw
- A very dry mouth (lack of saliva)
- Cracked or loose teeth
- Swelling of your neck or face
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks
- Receding or bleeding gums
- Persistent toothache
View the Momentum Health4Me network dentist list.
What are the causes of poor oral health?
Your mouth is full of bacteria, most of which is natural and contributes to a healthy oral ecosystem. However, some acid-producing bacteria known as plaque, which feeds off both carbohydrates and sugars from food left in your mouth, can erode tooth enamel if left untreated. Untreated plaque will harden and accumulate. This will cause an inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. The condition causes your gums to pull away from your teeth resulting in pockets of pus that will eventually lead to advanced gum disease known as periodontitis.
There are other contributing factors that can exacerbate the problem, these include:
- Smoking as tobacco impacts the soft tissue and bone in your mouth and teeth
- Poor or infrequent teeth brushing habits
- A diet high in sugar
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Lack of saliva as this essential substance contains calcium and phosphates
- Constant vomiting due to certain medical conditions or an eating disorder
9 Types of medical conditions or diseases linked to poor oral hygiene
1. Tooth decay
Dental cavities develop due to untreated plaque, which forms on the teeth and gums.
2. Gum disease
Gum disease, like gingivitis and periodontitis affect the tissue surrounding the teeth. These conditions are characterised by bleeding or swollen gums and bad breath. Periodontal disease can break down the bone that supports your teeth leading to further complications, like: abcycces, tooth loss, tooth infections or even oral cancer.
3. Cardiovascular Disease
Poor oral health puts you at a greater risk for developing heart disease. This is because the same bacteria that causes periodontitis can get into your bloodstream and cause your arteries to become clogged with plaque. If this begins to harden you could develop a condition known as atherosclerosis, which puts you at risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Damaged or compromised arteries can also lead to hypertension (or high blood pressure).
4. Respiratory infections
It’s possible to breathe in harmful bacteria from your mouth, which can travel to your lungs through the bloodstream. This could put you at risk for developing respiratory conditions, like pneumonia or bronchitis.
Oral health conditions, like gingivitis and periodontitis can make diabetes difficult to manage. This is because gum disease leads to a higher level of blood sugar levels in the body, which is extremely dangerous for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
6. Pregnancy complications
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to oral infections and problems; and so should take extra care to maintain good oral hygiene. Hormonal changes in the body and altered eating habits can lead to an increased risk of developing gum disease or dental cavities. Periodontitis has also been linked with pregnancy complications such as preterm birth and low birth weight.
Research studies have shown that advanced gum disease has been linked to an increased risk in developing certain types of cancer due to immune response changes or the spread of harmful bacteria. These include kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancer.
8. Chronic kidney disease
People with a kidney disease or who are on dialysis, are more likely to suffer from oral health problems because they have a weakened immune system and are susceptible to infections.
9. Rheumatoid arthritis
Oral health conditions, like gum disease, can increase inflammation in the body, which can lead to rheumatoid arthritis. This condition is characterised by severe joint pain. Studies have shown that those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are four times more likely to have severe gum disease.
How to improve oral health: sink your teeth into these top tips
Good oral health is a lifetime commitment. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is about sticking to smart habits. Bloom recommends the following best practices:
- Visiting your dentist regularly for a check-up
- Brushing your teeth twice per day after meals
- Using a fluoride toothpaste and/or mouthwash
- Limiting your sugar consumption
- Opting for a diet that’s high in fruit, vegetables and fibre
- Avoiding tobacco products
Dental coverage with the Health4Me basic dentistry plans
Medical Content Disclaimer
You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.