In years past, medical professionals were not making connections between oral health and overall health and wellness. New research suggests that the two are very much connected. Called the oral-systemic connection, studies are beginning to make links between the health of an individual’s mouth and the rest of the body.
New connections and theories are being discovered all the time, not all of them completely proven. However, there are a few connections that are convincing enough to become widely accepted.
Our mouths are breeding grounds for bacteria, which is what makes oral hygiene so important. This bacteria causes a variety of oral ailments from tooth decay to gum disease. New findings suggest that this same oral bacteria can travel from the mouth into the lungs and cause a variety of respiratory infections including pneumonia and emphysema. Those prone to these sorts of conditions need to make their oral health a priority!
Bacteria, like many people, love sugars – especially glucose. Oral bacteria will thrive on glucose, which is linked to diabetes. When blood sugar levels are poorly controlled it affects more than just diabetes. If there are high glucose levels in your mouth, it will dramatically increase the risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) officially recognized this connection between oral health and diabetes in 2008.
These studies haven’t been as conclusive as others, but there have been findings linking gum disease and preterm birth. While more research needs to be done in this area to be certain, any expecting mothers with periodontal concerns should have those treated as soon as possible, just in case.
Bacteria can cause havoc anywhere, and that includes cardiovascular areas. There are studies that suggest that clogged arteries, stroke and heart disease could potentially be caused by infections initiated by oral bacteria. Also, a condition known as endocarditis (an infection of the inner heart lining) is caused from bacteria coming from other areas of the body, spread through the bloodstream, and attracted to damaged heart areas.
There are other health concerns that have been linked to the mouth including eating disorders, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. If any of these are a concern for you or your loved ones, we would encourage you to do a bit of digging to uncover how proper oral hygiene might benefit you.
There is still a lot of work to be done in creating conclusive findings. However, what we do know is that the overall condition of your mouth, teeth and gums plays a much larger role in your health that anyone ever considered.
A proper oral hygiene routine is the best prevention for a variety of health problems. What if an electric toothbrush and regular floss could be enough to save a life?
Be certain you are scheduling your six-month dental appointments so your dentist can evaluate any potential oral problems that are oblivious to the untrained eye. Staying on top of your dental health will, in the long run, save you money, frustration, and could improve your body’s ability to function optimally.