Oral health can lead to improved overall health

Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, and strokes, a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, are two significant health concerns that draw increased attention in May, which is Lupus Awareness Month and National Stroke Awareness Month. 

While these conditions may seem unrelated to oral health at first glance, emerging research and clinical observations suggest a noteworthy connection between oral health and these diseases, highlighting the importance of oral hygiene and dental care in potentially mitigating risks and managing symptoms. 

Lupus can cause a wide range of symptoms, including joint pain, fatigue, and rashes. It can also affect the kidneys, heart, and lungs. Oral manifestations of lupus are not uncommon, with some patients experiencing sores in the mouth or nose, which can be a sign of the disease. Individuals with lupus may also have an increased risk of periodontal disease, a serious gum infection that can lead to tooth loss and other health complications. The inflammation associated with periodontal disease may exacerbate the systemic inflammation seen in lupus, potentially worsening the condition. 

The link between oral health and stroke risk is also increasingly recognized. Periodontal disease can increase systemic inflammation and contribute to the narrowing and blocking of arteries, a major risk factor for strokes. The bacteria in infected gum tissue can enter the bloodstream, leading to inflammation and atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of stroke. Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits can help reduce these harmful bacteria’s presence, potentially lowering stroke risk. 

Given these connections, it’s clear that maintaining good oral health is crucial for individuals with lupus or those at risk of strokes. Regular dental check-ups can help detect early signs of periodontal disease, allowing for timely intervention. For lupus patients, managing oral health is part of their overall condition. Dentists can advise on oral hygiene practices that can help mitigate the risk of gum disease and oral sores, which are common in people with lupus. 

Your dentist can play a key role in the early detection of numerous diseases, including lupus. 

Preventive measures such as brushing teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and avoiding tobacco products can significantly contribute to oral health and, by extension, overall health. Adopting a healthy diet low in sugar and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease and its potential implications for lupus and stroke. 

The ties between oral health and diseases such as lupus and stroke underscore the importance of comprehensive health care, including regular dental check-ups. 

This month, make it a point to see your dentist. Your long-term health will benefit from it.

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