Did you know that your oral health can also have a significant impact on all other aspects of your health? For example, oral diseases don’t just stop at the mouth. There has been a growing body of evidence that has linked oral health problems to several types of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – while in pregnant women, poor oral health has also been linked to premature births and low birth weights of newborns.

Among the most common oral diseases linked to other health problems include:

• Periodontal (gum) disease
• Dental caries (cavities)
• Cleft lip/palate
• Oral/facial pain
• Oral and pharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers

Periodontal (gum) disease can cause damage to the soft tissue of the mouth; and, without proper treatment, can also destroy the bone that supports your teeth, causing teeth to loosen – or you may even lose some teeth all together. Periodontal disease is common but preventable.

Dental caries (cavities) are decayed areas of the teeth. Cavities are commonly caused by bacteria being present in the mouth, consuming sugar, and by not ensuring your teeth are cleaned well.

Cleft lip/palate is thought to be caused by a combination of different factors, including genes and environmental factors, as well as certain medications a pregnant women uses during pregnancy. You can learn more about cleft lip/palate by clicking here.

Oral/facial pain can be complex. While it can be the result of jaw and dental problems (including infections), it may also be the result of nerve conditions. This type of pain can be felt in one specific area, or it may radiate elsewhere.

Oral and pharyngeal (mouth and throat cancers) most commonly occur in people over the age of 40, and can be caused from things such as tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, as well as a sexually transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV).

One of the best things that you can do to prevent the aforementioned oral diseases and protect your overall health is to ensure that you are maintaining your oral health. This means brushing and flossing your teeth regularly (at least twice per day to help remove any plaque build-up), as well as seeing your dentist and oral hygienist for regular exams and cleanings. You should also limit or avoid alcoholic beverages, and avoid tobacco products. Certain medications are also known to cause dry mouth. If you are taking a medication and suspect it is causing you to have a dry mouth, things like chewing sugarless gum and drinking plenty of water can be helpful. If you’re still finding dry mouth to be a side-effect of any of your medications, you should also consider talking to your physician.