Just like your gut, your mouth is home to millions of bacteria. These bacteria, under ideal circumstances, are beneficial and help us stay healthy. For instance, bacteria in the mouth can convert the nitrates in green vegetables into nitric oxide, a chemical which helps our blood vessels dilate and lowers blood pressure. But because of poor dietary habits in the West, many of us foster the growth of less beneficial bacteria in our mouths – the kind of bacteria which attack the gum lining and surface of our teeth, leading to gum disease and tooth decay.
Researchers believe that saliva may be a mild antiseptic – an evolutionary defence against tooth decay. However, the production of saliva can be compromised in some people taking certain medications, including commonly prescribed antidepressants, painkillers, and antihistamines. A reduction in saliva means less liquid to neutralise the acids produced by bacteria, potentially leading to a higher likelihood of cavity formation.
Poor oral health is linked to a variety of medical conditions. As well as cardiovascular disease, researchers suspect that poor oral health is partly responsible for low birth weights and premature births in pregnant women, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Gum disease, for instance, may be linked to diabetes because of the increased chronic inflammation decreasing the effectiveness of insulin in the body. (Inflammation makes it harder for insulin to push glucose into cells). Problems with oral health may also result as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
Researchers believe that saliva may be a mild antiseptic – an evolutionary defence against tooth decay.
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