Maintaining oral health is about more than just preventing cavities and gum disease. In fact, it’s a vital part of our overall wellness.
New research has highlighted the intriguing connection between our oral health and general health. Learn how a healthy mouth can affect your heart health, immune system and more!
Gum disease, a common oral health problem, is linked to heart problems. Gum disease causes inflammation that can enter the bloodstream and irritate the heart. This irritation can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Gum inflammation caused by gum disease can also introduce bacteria into the body. This bacteria can settle on the heart valves and lead to a serious infection called endocarditis. Endocarditis is a complication of heart disease that can be fatal.
In two population-based studies of older people, poor self-rated oral health and a history of periodontitis/xerostomia were associated with increased risk of all-cause, cardiovascular (CVD) and respiratory mortality, after adjustment for demographic factors. However, it is important to note that these findings are based on observational data and are not able to demonstrate causality. The results may have been affected by confounding variables including socioeconomic status, chronic diseases and other behavioral or lifestyle factors.
Diabetes is associated with countless health problems, and it can also take a toll on oral health. Unmanaged diabetes decreases saliva (spit) flow and can lead to dry mouth, which can contribute to soreness, ulcers and infections in the mouth. Additionally, high blood sugar levels can weaken white blood cells, which are the body’s main way of fighting infections in the mouth.
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is exacerbated by diabetes because it can cause bacteria to thrive in the gum tissue. Additionally, glucose in the saliva can promote fungal growth that causes thrush, which is characterized by painful white patches in the mouth and throat.
To protect their teeth and gums, diabetic patients need to eat a healthy diet that limits sugar and see their dentist regularly. They should also seek out a dietitian to create an eating plan that’s tailored to their specific condition. Regular oral hygiene habits help destroy the bacteria that causes periodontal disease and tooth decay.
The oral cavity has been regarded as a potential reservoir for respiratory pathogens leading to disease in the lung. This could happen through aspiration of oral pathogens into the lungs, colonization of dental plaque by respiratory pathogens followed by aspiration, or facilitation of the entry of periodontal bacteria into the pulmonary interstitial tissue.
In this section the most contemporary evidence on associations between oral health and pulmonary diseases is reviewed. This evidence is presented in two sections: one on the effect of oral hygiene interventions and the occurrence and outcomes of pneumonia in community-living patients; the other on the effect of oral health and oral hygiene on the incidence and outcome of pneumonia in ventilated hospital-based patients.
Weak oral health increases the risk of bacterial infections that can lead to gum disease and, ultimately, pneumonia. These bacteria are also known to enter the bloodstream and travel down to the lungs, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Mental health is an integral part of overall wellness and can impact oral health in a number of ways. People who have a mental illness are less likely to get regular dental care, which can lead to tooth loss, gum disease and decay. In addition, the physical pain associated with oral health problems can make it difficult to cope, which can further negatively impact mental health.
Many people with a mental illness don’t know that their oral health can impact their overall well-being, so they might neglect it. They may also have anxiety about dental procedures and avoid care. In addition, the symptoms of some mental illnesses can interfere with eating and speech, further affecting oral health.
A dentist can help a patient with mental health issues navigate behavioral health services that address their oral and overall wellness. Smile Generation-trusted providers are committed to helping their patients connect with these resources, and work together toward the shared goal of whole-person health.