The Relationship Between Your Dental Health and Overall Health

Most people already know that brushing, flossing and heading to those routine dental cleanings and checkups are important to keep your mouth healthy. However, you may not realize that there’s a big connection between your dental health and your overall health. Your oral health can offer big clues about your overall health, and problems in the oral cavity may affect the rest of the body.

Many systemic diseases result in oral symptoms, while poor oral health can increase your risk of certain health problems such as heart disease. Below, learn more about the relationship between your dental health and the rest of the body — including the correlation between oral health and cardiometabolic and autoimmune conditions.

The Link Between Cardiometabolic Conditions

New evidence shows a direct link between heart disease and oral health. While the cause-and-effect relationship between the two has yet to be proven, studies show that gum disease can increase the risk of heart disease. It’s believed that the inflammation caused by gum disease may be responsible for raising the risk of heart disease. Whats more, for individuals who have existing heart conditions, gum disease can make the problem worse. With over 80 percent of Americans living with gum disease, often undiagnosed, that becomes a serious concern.

Additional studies have found a link between stroke and gum disease. In fact, researchers recently found that individuals with gum disease were three times as likely to end up having a stroke. It’s thought that the infections and inflammation that can be caused by oral bacteria may be linked to clogged arteries and stroke.

There’s even a link between diabetes and your oral health. Diabetes can reduce your body’s ability to fight infection, increasing your risk of gum disease. People who have diabetes seem to deal with gum disease more frequently, and it’s more severe in individuals with diabetes. Gum disease can make it tougher for people with diabetes to control blood sugar levels. Treating gum disease can also help reduce the need for insulin and result in better control over blood sugar.

How Autoimmune Conditions Affect Oral Health

Certain autoimmune conditions have the ability to affect your oral cavity, negatively affecting your oral health. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system begins attacking the body’s tissues and cells. Many of these diseases have oral manifestations. One common autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, which is often associated with rheumatoid arthritis, attacks glands — resulting in dry mouth and other problems. The decrease in saliva may result in greater risk for tooth decay. Fungal infections of the mouth are common in these patients, as well.

Crohn’s disease can cause mouth ulcers and swelling of the gums, while systemic lupus erythematosus can also result in mouth ulcers. In rare cases, individuals with psoriasis — an autoimmune disease of the skin — may experience oral lesions on the gums, tongue, palate, and lips.

For individuals who have an autoimmune disease, it’s not only important to have a good doctor who can treat the disease effectively, it’s also essential to have a good dentist. Excellent oral hygiene and frequent visits to the dentist can help reduce some of the negative oral effects that come with autoimmune diseases. In fact, in some cases, improving oral health and treating gum disease may offer some improvement. For example, doctors have found that the pain of rheumatoid arthritis is often reduced by treating gum disease effectively.

Other health conditions also have the ability to affect your oral health, such as osteoporosis, HIV/AIDS, eating disorders, and neck and head cancers. Because your oral health and overall health are linked, it’s essential to talk to your dentist about changes to your overall health, medications you take, and any chronic medical conditions you have. If you experience any oral health problems, contact your dentist right away, since taking care of your oral health is critical to protecting and improving your overall health, as well.


Author bio: Teresa Tuttle is Marketing Director for Grove Dental, a multi-specialty group dental practice in Chicago’s western suburbs. With more than 30 doctors and 50 years of practice experience, Grove Dental’s offices stay on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.

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