Dental health is often treated as separate from the rest of our bodies – the insurance plans and medical professionals are even separate! However, there is a connection between dental health and overall health. Neglecting your teeth and gums can adversely impact your health, medical costs, and quality of life.
For many people, dental health is often overlooked and underappreciated. But oral health offers clues to the state of your overall health; worse yet, some of the problems in your mouth can impact the rest of your body.
What’s the Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health?
Our mouths are teeming with bacteria, most of which are harmless. Some of the bacteria in the mouth can lead to disease, but the mouth provides an easy entry point for your digestive and respiratory tracts.
Good oral health care, such as brushing and flossing, and the body’s natural immune system can keep bacteria at bay. Without proper oral hygiene, harmful bacteria can reach levels that overwhelm the beneficial bacteria. This can lead to oral infections like gum disease.
Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with gum disease (periodontitis) may play a role in systemic diseases such as diabetes heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
What Conditions Can Be Linked to Dental Health?
Poor dental health may contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions, including:
- Endocarditis: This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves that can occur when bacteria or pathogens from other parts of the body, such as the mouth, spread into the bloodstream and reach the heart.
- Cardiovascular disease: Some research suggests that clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth complications: Research has discovered a link between periodontitis, or severe gum disease, and premature birth and low birth weight.
- Pneumonia: Certain bacteria in the mouth can make their way into the respiratory system, causing pneumonia or other respiratory diseases that can be serious.
- Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease: In an animal study, mice were orally exposed to periodontal disease bacteria and developed neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and senile plaque formation, which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Health Conditions That Can Impact Oral Health
Just like your oral health plays a role in your overall health, certain health conditions can impact your dental health, such as 
Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, making it easier for gum disease to develop. Research suggests that gum disease is more frequent and severe among people with diabetes. In addition, people with poorly managed diabetes have excess glucose in their system, which leads to more sugar in the saliva that promotes the growth of bacteria.
HIV/AIDS causes many symptoms, including painful mucosal lesions that occur in the mouth.
Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening disease that is linked to bone loss and tooth loss that occurs with severe periodontal disease. Some medications for osteoporosis can have the side effect of damaging the bone structure of the jaw as well.
A growing body of research has identified a connection between oral health and chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, but it can also contribute to poor oral health. The loss of cognitive function in elderly people often comes with less diligent oral hygiene, leading to dental problems.
For some women, pregnancy increases the risk of gingivitis. Roughly 60 to 75% of pregnant women experience gum inflammation because of fluctuating hormones. Conversely, some studies suggest a correlation between poor periodontal health and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Other Health Conditions with a Connection to Oral Health
Other conditions may link to poor oral health through symptoms or medications and their effects on the mouth. Some of these include eating disorders like bulimia, rheumatoid arthritis, which is treated with immunosuppressant drugs, and Sjogren’s syndrome, a system disorder that causes dry mouth.
With so many possible links between dental health and overall health, it’s imperative to speak with your dentist about any health conditions you have or medications you take, as these may factor into your oral care.
How to Protect Your Dental Health
Good oral hygiene, including regular checkups and cleanings with a dentist, is key to protecting your oral health.
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily for four minutes using a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss twice daily.
- Use mouthwash to remove residue and food particles left behind from brushing and flossing.
- Eat a healthy diet of whole foods and limit sugary foods and drinks.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Avoid tobacco use like smoking or chewing.
Safeguard Your Dental Health by Scheduling an Appointment with a Dentist Near Me
Proactive measures to protect your dental health are essential for safeguarding your overall health. At Albion Family Dental, we focus on gentle, comprehensive care to preserve your oral hygiene and health. Schedule an appointment today! 585-589-9044