The Mouth-Body Connection: A Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health

Janie Gianotsos Newsy

Thank you Delta Dental for Sharing this Information for our Blog!

The interconnection between oral health and overall health is amazing. A professor at University of Birmingham and head of the School of Dentistry once said, “The mouth is the doorway to the body, rather than a separate organ, and is the access point for bacteria to enter the bloodstream via the gums.”

Many individuals are unaware that the health of their mouth can reflect the quality of their overall health. A painful smile can indicate larger problems are at play. That’s why it’s so very important to acknowledge if your oral health needs attention.

Gum Disease and the Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health
When oral health is ignored, food, bacteria, and other debris build up on the teeth and gums. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is caused by the buildup of this plaque on the teeth over time. People with gum disease are much more likely to also have heart disease. About 47 percent of Americans have mild, moderate or severe gum disease. This percent increases as we reach old age.

Awareness and preventive care are two key tools for maintaining oral health and overall wellness. If you don’t use these tools, the link between oral health and overall health can cause the rest of your body to respond in the following ways:

The Brain
Studies show that oral diseases have a direct link to stroke. Harmful bacteria in your mouth can make you more susceptible to developing blood clots, which increases your chance of stroke.

Additionally, studies found that your risk for developing Alzheimer’s can increase as oral health decreases. Researchers in the UK found periodontal disease bacteria in patients who had developed dementia – not just in their mouths, but in their brains.

The Lungs
Once dental plaque is established in the mouth, it can be inhaled and spread to the lungs. This can cause pneumonia and bronchitis. Maintaining good oral health can decrease the incidents of respiratory infection.

The Heart
Periodontal disease, causes swollen gums, bleeding, and worse. The high levels of inflammation associated with periodontal disease are directly linked with heart conditions. In one study, subjects with evidence of oral infections were 30% more likely to have a heart attack than those without oral infections.

The Pancreas
In addition to impacting the brain, lungs, and heart, periodontal disease also impacts the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the US, and gum disease has been found to increase the risk of this cancer.

The pancreas also controls the body’s ability to process sugar. Diabetic patients either can’t make enough insulin or don’t respond to insulin, which takes a toll on the mouth. Untreated diabetes causes dry mouth, cavities, inflammation of the gums, and problems tasting.

The Kidneys
Oral health is a huge factor when other parts of the body become unhealthy. Research found that patients with kidney disease and gum disease had a higher risk of death than patients with kidney disease and healthy gums and teeth.

Parents and Kids
Did you know that gum disease, cavities, and oral bacteria can be transmitted from you to your child through oral contact? As a parent, your own oral health can be directly attributed to the oral health of your kids.

Next time you drop your baby’s binky on the ground, think twice before cleaning it with your mouth! You could potentially be contributing more harmful bacteria.

Now that you’ve increased your awareness of the link between oral health and overall health, it’s time to put positive oral health practices to the test!

1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day gently, in a circular motion.
2. Use fluoride toothpaste, the leading defense against tooth decay.
3. Floss regularly!
4. Limit sodas and sports drinks.
5. See the dentist at least twice a year.
6. Try these smile-friendly recipes with oral health in mind!

Nutrition is one crucial element of having great smile health. Follow the “food plate” recommended by the USDA to make maintaining a proper diet simple. The food plate will help you understand which foods are better for you, and which you should avoid. The healthier your body is, the longer it will last you. A copy of the food plate can be found here.

To learn more about the connection between oral and overall health, visit us at Delta Dental of Colorado!

Want Some Smile-Friendly Recipes?  Click here!