Oral Systemic Link
It is easy to think oral health and general health are not connected, but numerous recent scientific studies show otherwise. In fact scientists now think there is a strong connection between oral health, and systemic diseases and medical conditions affecting general health.
How Does Oral Health Affect General Health?
Your mouth has many different kinds of bacteria, most of them harmless, and normally good oral care, including regular brushing and flossing and professional dental care, helps keep the numbers under control. Without proper oral care there is the danger their numbers could increase, leading to infections such as gum disease and tooth decay. One of the particular problems caused by advanced gum disease is that gums will bleed, allowing bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream. Advanced gum disease is an inflammatory condition and bacteria from the mouth have been identified at other sites around the body.
Various studies have also suggested that oral bacteria found in periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, could also affect certain other serious diseases including diabetes and HIV/AIDS when these bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums, causing inflammation in the body. Diseases such as AIDS and diabetes affect the immune system, lowering the body's resistance against disease, potentially increasing the severity of oral health problems.
Oral health is also affected by certain medications including painkillers and diuretics and decongestants and antihistamines. These can have the potential to reduce the flow of saliva. Sufficient saliva is extremely important for good oral health as it helps to neutralise acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, and helps to wash away excess foods. This reduces the risk of microbes within the mouth increasing to a level that could lead to disease.
What Type of Health Conditions Might Be Linked to Oral Health?
Oral health has been linked to numerous conditions, and it thought it could be affected by or could contribute towards these conditions worsening. These include:
Cardiovascular disease, as it's thought the inflammation and infection caused by oral bacteria is linked to heart disease and blocked arteries.
Diabetes impairs the immune system, reducing the ability to fight disease. Diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar levels are more likely to have excess glucose in their saliva, increasing the risk of periodontal disease. Research has shown diabetics with gum disease have much more difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels.
Endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner lining of the heart and can occur when bacteria from another part of the body such as the mouth are able to access damaged areas of the heart through the bloodstream.
Premature births and low birth weight babies have been linked to periodontitis.
Osteoporosis is thought to possibly be linked to bone loss and tooth loss.
Research is on-going and as yet scientists are not quite sure exactly how oral health is able to affect overall health. Poor oral health is also being linked to other conditions including Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and to eating disorders.
The potential links between oral health conditions and general health conditions mean it is important to tell your dentist if you're taking any medications for if you have any conditions that affect your overall health, for example if you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes or if you have had any recent illnesses.
How Can I Reduce This Risk?
You can reduce your risk simply by practicing good oral hygiene every day. This means brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once a day. In addition it's important to eat a healthy diet and to limit snacks in between meals. Schedule regular check-ups with your dentist at Sparkle Dental, and if you are ever concerned about your oral health then contact us for additional advice. Some people might benefit from more frequent check-ups and hygiene appointments, including pregnant women and people who have diseases that compromise the immune system such as diabetes.