Many people don’t see the connection between oral health, overall health and where the two intersect. When we have physical aches and pains, feel symptoms of illness, generally feel unwell, or just need a preventive physical exam, we do not hesitate to see our medical providers. However, we often overlook the importance of a general dental check-up that consists of exam, x-rays, and other preventive treatments such as fluoride varnish and sealants until such time when tooth pain becomes unbearable. By then, the tooth decay may be so severe that the cost of dental treatments to save the tooth makes it unaffordable. Some people would rather extract (pull) the tooth than preserve it to avoid dental costs. It does not have to be this way.
Oral health and overall health are connected in many ways. Problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body just as problems in your body can affect your mouth. It is important to be informed so you can make good decisions about your health – including your oral health.
Conditions that may be linked to oral health:
- Endocarditis (inflammation of inner lining of your heart) – This occurs when bacteria or germs from other parts of your body (like your mouth) spreads through your bloodstream and damage areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular Disease – Heart disease such as clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to infections that oral bacteria can cause. It is thought that inflammation in the mouth cause inflammation in the blood vessels which increases the risk for heart disease.
- Pregnancy and Birth – Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue around the teeth) has been linked to prematurity and low birth weight.
Certain conditions that might affect your oral health:
- Diabetes – Diabetes is a condition that results in poor control of blood sugar which reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease are more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
- HIV/AIDS – Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis — a condition which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss especially in women. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
- Alzheimer’s Disease — Oral health worsens as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
There are also other conditions that might be linked to oral health, and because of these potential links, be sure to tell your dentist if you are taking any medications or have had changes in your overall health – including chronic conditions.
Nothing is better than your own set of natural teeth. With regular preventive visits coupled with good oral hygiene and healthy habits, you can prevent tooth decay, keep your natural set of teeth and your beautiful smile for a very long time. Your dental providers are here to help.