Why is oral health so important?

Do you have high blood pressure, diabetes, lung conditions, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or obesity? If you fall into any of these categories, you could very well have some kind of oral condition which is causing them. Research has shown that there may be more of a link between conditions in the mouth and overall systemic health than previously thought.

The mouth oftentimes is a window into what is going on in the rest of your body. In some cases, conditions in the mouth often serve to help detect the early signs of systemic disease. There are over 500 species of bacteria that thrive in your mouth at any given time. These bacteria constantly form dental plaque that can cling to teeth.

Here are a few examples of systemic illness and their possible relation to conditions in the mouth:

High Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that people with gum disease had higher blood pressure, on average than those that had healthy gums. Studies have also shown that the effectiveness of blood pressure medication may be affected, so it doesn’t work as well to help you control your high blood pressure.

Diabetes

Inflammation that starts in the mouth may weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar. Diabetics have trouble processing sugar because of the lack of insulin. Gum disease impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin. Infection and inflammation in the mouth may cause insulin resistance, which disrupts blood sugar.

Lung Conditions

Because we use our mouth for breathing in air, certain bacteria get pulled into our lungs. Periodontal disease may make pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worse, possibly increasing the number of bacteria in the lungs.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some studies are beginning to find links between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Treating periodontal disease has been shown to reduce pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Obesity

Missing teeth due to periodontal disease has been shown to be linked to obesity in some cases. Researchers think that because of missing teeth, we need to eat softer, more processed food which leads to obesity.

So what does this all mean for you? One thing is very clear. The mouth and the body are not separate entities. Bacteria that builds up on teeth make the gums more susceptible to infection. The body’s defenses are located within the bloodstream, so when the body moves in to attack the infection, the gums become more inflamed. The inflammation will continue unless the infection is brought under control.

The good news is, taking care of your teeth and gums can really help you live longer. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss at least once a day and most importantly, see your dentist for a complete exam. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health!

Sources:

American Dental Association Vol. 137 April 2006

Mayo Clinic Article June 4, 2019 – Oral Health A window to your overall health

Barker, Joanne – Oral Health: The Mouth-Body Connection | WebMD archives Jan 4, 2012

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