How Oral Health Impacts Overall Health

How Oral Health Impacts Overall Health

Oral health impacts so much more than most people think! One of the most common and important habits in our daily lives is brushing and flossing. While this is an optimal way to achieve a white and beautiful smile and prevent tooth decay, these aren’t the only reasons to take care of your oral health. In fact, health in the mouth is closely related to health in the body. 

Research has shown that oral health is closely related to the health of a variety of anatomical structures including gums, muscles, bones, glands, ligaments, and nerves. How? Read on, as we’ll discuss some of these relationships below.  

How Oral Health Impacts Overall Health

Gum Health & Heart Disease 

You may not be aware that the bacteria in plaque that forms on your teeth may adversely impact other organs in the body, including the heart and lungs. Bacterial endocarditis, a potentially fatal disease that affects the inner lining of the heart and heart valves, has been linked to plaque, as has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

A recent study by the American Academy of Periodontology found that the risk of developing heart disease is nearly twice as high in people with periodontal gum disease. Additionally, Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine reported in 2006 that people with missing teeth have a higher risk of stroke. 

Bleeding gums, bad breath, blisters, and receding gums are the first signs of gum disease. Plaque can be prevented by brushing and flossing twice a day and visiting the dentist regularly.

Dental Health & Alzheimer 

 UIC College of Dentistry researchers have uncovered some of the secrets behind Alzheimer’s disease that will allow them to develop new treatments and bridge the “gap” between the medical and dental professions. The researchers hope these findings will help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes. An estimated one in ten adults over 65 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The consequences are dementia, memory loss, and a steadily declining ability to function independently. About 5% of AD cases are familial (early onset), while over 95% of AD cases are sporadic (late onset). In most cases, the early onset of AD is due to mutations in genes involved in amyloid or senile plaque formation. In sporadic onset AD, the etiology and molecular mechanisms are still largely unknown (60-65 years old).

Recent studies indicate that mice exposed to periodontitis bacteria (gum disease) developed neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and senile plaques similar to AD in humans. These pathologies did not occur in control animals. The brains of the experimental mice’ contained a periodontal pathogen/product.

The presence of chronic oral bacteria or bacterial products in the brain may influence the development of senile plaques, suggesting that chronic bacterial infection may be a contributing factor to sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.

Gum Disease & Pregnancy

The association between gum disease and preterm birth and low birth weight has also been demonstrated in recent studies. Pregnant women with periodontal disease could be seven times more likely to have a preterm birth. 

Low birth weight babies are more likely to have respiratory problems, anemia, jaundice, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and congestive heart failure. A chemical called prostaglandin, found in oral bacteria, is likely responsible. A woman with severe periodontitis has elevated prostaglandin levels.

In the second to eighth month of pregnancy, gingivitis often occurs, which manifests as red, swollen, or tender gums that bleed when brushed. An increase in the level of progesterone in the body causes these problems. 

A regular dental checkup is therefore imperative when you have a baby on the way. To avoid potential problems, your dentist may recommend that you go for more frequent dental cleanings during pregnancy. Oral health problems are not limited to pregnancy. Women can also be more susceptible to plaque and bacteria during puberty, menstruation, and menopause due to increased hormone levels.

Oral Health & Pneumonia

Tooth decay increases the risk of pneumonia, an infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Researchers have reported that bacteria from the mouth can probably aspirate into the upper respiratory tract and the lungs, leading to pneumonia. To clarify the mechanism, research has shown that a lack of oral health contributes to bacteria becoming trapped in the lungs and causing respiratory infections.

Periodontal Disease & Pre-Diabetes

Your gums are at risk if you have diabetes because it reduces your body’s ability to resist infection. People with diabetes seem to experience gum disease more often and more severely. Several studies have shown that people who have gum disease have a lower ability to control their blood sugar levels than those without gum disease. With regular periodontal care, diabetes can be better controlled.

A 2023 study found a link between oral health and diabetes; researchers emphasized that many dental diseases are chronic inflammatory and often have far-reaching systemic effects, particularly on type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Oral Health & Osteoporosis

Oral and bone health seem to be directly correlated. The disease osteoporosis weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures. Decreased bone mass and the breakdown of bone tissue cause bones to become brittle. 

Hip, spine, and wrist fractures in particular can result from this disease. In addition, studies suggest that bone loss in the jaw is related to osteoporosis. Those with osteoporosis may lose their teeth because the jawbone that supports the teeth becomes less dense, meaning the teeth no longer have a strong foundation.

The weakening of the jaw due to osteoporosis can lower a person’s defenses against bacteria that damage the gums, which can lead to periodontal disease. But don’t worry, because in most cases osteoporosis can be prevented. All people, especially women, should take care of their oral health by maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly.

Bottom Line

Regular dental checkups not only help keep your teeth and gums healthy but also allow your dentist to detect diseases that may occur in the future, such as oral cancer. Do not hesitate to tell your dentist about any changes in your oral health, including recent illnesses or chronic conditions, even if you think they are unprecedented. 

Make sure your doctor is familiar with all of your medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. Last but not least, follow your dentist’s recommendations, including any home care instructions. Don’t forget to schedule an appointment today.