The Link Between Oral Health and Systemic Disease

woman in front of white background smiling and pointing at her teeth

How Your Oral and Bodily Health are Connected

The Interconnected Body

The impact of your oral health goes beyond cavities and tooth issues. Your mouth is the gateway to your body and diseases that develop in the mouth can make their way to vital parts of your body. 

 

Much of the bacteria in your mouth is harmless and maintains a balance for your health. But some bacteria are harmful to your health. The body’s natural defenses and proper hygiene usually are enough to fend off these harmful bacteria, but not always.

 

If harmful bacteria spread to other parts of the body, they can cause more serious health conditions. That’s why holistic dentists like Dr. Stephen Alfano focus their practices on using techniques and materials that are beneficial for your whole body health, not just your teeth.

 

Systemic health also has an impact on oral health. Diseases of the body can weaken the mouth’s defenses and make you more vulnerable to oral health issues.

Effects of Oral Health on Systemic Health

  • Endocarditis

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves that can be caused by bacteria from the mouth spreading to the heart. This can happen if you have gum disease or poor dental health, as bacterial infections in the bloodstream have been found to be associated with oral hygiene.

  • Heart Disease

Research suggests that some cardiovascular diseases can be influenced by oral health. One condition, Atherosclerotic disease is the narrowing of arteries due to cholesterol in vessel walls. 

 

This condition is the primary cause of coronary heart disease as well as cerebrovascular disease. Studies have shown that chronic inflammation and infection caused by oral health issues can cause atherosclerotic disease.

  • Pregnancy Complications

When a woman is pregnant, increased hormone levels can cause oral health to become more sensitive and lead to an increased risk of inflamed gums. If not taken care of, inflamed gums can lead to periodontal, or gum, disease.

 

A study found that pregnant women with periodontal disease are 7.5 times more likely to deliver premature, low-weight babies. Dentists like Dr. Jay Stockdale in Rancho Cucamonga, CA recommend visiting the dentist for cleanings and periodontal treatment if you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant.

  • Pulmonary Diseases

Pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and worsening of chronic bronchitis are all examples of pulmonary diseases that have been found to worsen with oral health issues.

 

There are various ways oral health can have an effect on the respiratory system.  There’s evidence that oral pathogens can be directly aspirated into the lungs. If these pathogens are in your mouth due to poor oral hygiene, you may be constantly breathing in disease-causing particles.

 

Another possibility is untreated periodontal disease. If you have periodontal disease over a long course of time, a large variety of biologically active molecules are continually released from your gum tissue and can alter your bodily balance.

 

Effects of Systemic Health on Oral Health

  • Diabetes

Diabetes has many effects on various parts of the body, your oral health included. People with diabetes have at least a 3 times greater risk of developing periodontal disease if diabetes is not managed well.

 

When gum disease begins to progress, the gums pull away from the teeth and form what is called ‘pockets.’ Pockets that are more than 4mm deep are considered a risk factor for periodontitis. People with diabetes are more likely to have deeper pockets.

 

  • Osteoporosis

A weakening of the bones can lead to tooth problems and tooth loss. Your tooth roots are connected to your jawbone, and when this bone weakens your tooth can fall out.

 

Decreased bone density can also cause the depth and number of pockets in the mouth to increase, allowing more periodontal disease to permeate your mouth.

 

  • Chronic Kidney Disease

People with chronic kidney disease are also more likely to have oral health issues. Oral health issues associated with kidney disease are dry mouth, bad breath, loss of bone in the jaw, problems chewing, increased risk of plaque and gum disease, and tooth loss.

 

  • Medications

Even if you have a condition that doesn’t cause issues with your oral health, medications you take could still affect it. One of the most damaging dental effects of medications is called “dry mouth.”

 

The saliva in your mouth helps to wash away food particles and protects your mouth from disease-causing microbes. If you take a medication that has a side effect of reducing the amount of saliva in your mouth, your oral health could be in danger.

 

Luckily, the progression of oral disease from medications is easily preventable. Chewing on sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy can help your mouth produce more saliva. You can even suck on some ice, without chewing, to help this condition.

 

Care for Your Teeth, Care for Your Body

Though not every condition has a causal link with oral hygiene, research has shown strong associations between oral and bodily health. Taking care of your teeth and mouth is an important part of keeping you at your best. 

 

Dentists like Dr. Douglas Wirth in Oak Harbor, WA recommend brushing and flossing your teeth every day to maintain optimal oral hygiene. In addition, visiting the dentist every 6 months for cleanings and exams can keep your teeth clean as well as catch disease while it’s manageable.

 

If you have a health condition that may worsen your dental health, it’s important to let your dentist know. They may be able to provide care tailored to your needs and help you manage your oral health.