The mouth-body connection greatly impacts your overall health.
Your oral health and the rest of your health are undeniably linked in a complex web of cause and effect. Though there is a kind of chicken-and-egg debate over which comes first in the cases of overall pathology, one thing is clear: Taking care of your overall health positively affects the health of the rest of your body and vice versa. That is, taking care of what you eat and how you exercise also positively affects your oral health.
Your mouth and body’s health are married and intertwined. People who experience inflammation in their gums have a higher likelihood of experiencing inflammation internally, as well. Being diligent in oral health hygiene and keeping regularly scheduled appointments with your dentist helps to reduce or heal inflammation in your gums (aka gingivitis or periodontitis) and could even help reduce overall inflammation in your body.
Between your gums and teeth are little micro-pockets that your dentist regularly cleans and that flossing and brushing also help to keep clean. When your gums are severely impacted by periodontal disease, the pockets between your gums and teeth loosen, allowing a host of bacteria to directly enter your bloodstream. Most people don’t know about this gateway into the bloodstream, which is only accessible if you have periodontal disease or if the health of your gums is somehow otherwise compromised. In order to protect your body from outside bacteria, you should guard your gum health diligently. Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly. If your gums ache, please talk to your dentist for advice and treatment. Advancements in periodontal treatment and gum care make it easier and more effective to treat, prevent, and sometimes even reverse periodontal disease and its effects.
Here are some ways your oral health is linked to your whole-body health.
Periodontal Disease and Inflammation
As mentioned above, studies have shown a link between bacterial infection and inflammation in your gums and arteries. “Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.” (Mayo Clinic) Colgate puts it this way, “This inflammation may serve as a base for development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, possibly increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.” (Colgate.com)
Heart attack or stroke are not the only diseases periodontitis has been linked to. The list seems to get longer every year.
Low Birth Weight and Pregnancy Complications
Periodontitis has been linked to low birth weight. Although there has been much debate about what the exact link between the two is, it remains that an association exists. “While findings of individual studies have been mixed, an overview of 23 systematic reviews conducted through 2016 concluded that associations exist between periodontitis and pre-term birth, low birthweight babies, low birthweight babies born prematurely and the development of pre-eclampsia.”
If you don’t keep bacterial growth in your mouth in check with regular hygiene appointments and diligent oral hygiene at home , it turns out that bad things can happen. “Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.” (Mayo Clinic)
What is endocarditis? It is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers, and can occur when bacteria from another part of your body spreads throughout your bloodstream and infects the valves (endocardium) of your heart. One of the easiest places for infection to originate and spread from is—you guessed it—your mouth. In advanced cases of periodontitis, the pockets that lie between your gums and teeth become compromised, and germs in your mouth can directly access your bloodstream. It is so important to take care of your teeth and gums and regularly see your dentist.
What about the reverse? Does your body’s overall health affect your oral health? Of course. Disorders such as diabetes, blood cell disorders, and HIV infections can lower your body’s resistance to infection. If you have diabetes or have been diagnosed with a blood cell disorder or internal infection, it is even more important for you to see your dentist regularly and discuss with them how you can protect your oral cavity against disease. While you do not need to disclose any information you are uncomfortable with revealing, it is helpful if they know you need extra help in staying on top of inflammation, bacteria buildup, and calculus.
Restorative dentistry, like replacing teeth and treating periodontitis and its effects, helps your body fight a range of diseases that, until a few years ago, were thought to be unrelated to oral health. For more on treating periodontitis, the oral health condition linked to the most diseases of any oral health condition, check out how we use lasers to effectively and easily treat periodontitis.