There is a Definitive Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health
Health care researchers have suspected that there are links between oral health and overall systemic health since the late 19th century. The theory got a significant boost this century with a 2000 report by the U.S. Surgeon General that called for more research to determine how periodontal disease is linked to cardiovascular health, stroke, diabetes, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. While the report recognized the existence of the link, it noted that researchers have not yet proven causation. Despite this, the report concluded that “oral health is integral to general health. You cannot be healthy without oral health.”
Since then, researchers have continued to find more evidence in support of the links, but have not been able to nail down the elusive causation. Evidence of the link is primarily observational, which cannot be relied on to prove causation. Such observational evidence may be biased by confounding factors, such as another health issue that could be a primary influencing factor in both oral health and the linked systemic health concern.
From an observational perspective, your Marco Island, Florida-area dentist believes in the links between oral health and overall health. Based on their clinical experience, patients with healthy teeth and gums tend to present overall better health profiles than patients lacking good oral health.
Links Between Oral Health and Systemic Health Go Both Ways
While poor oral health might be a contributing factor in a number of diseases and other systemic health issues, certain conditions have also been linked to a deterioration in oral health. Researchers believe that oral bacteria and associated inflammation likely play a significant role in how oral health impacts overall health.
However, causation concerning how certain conditions might impact oral health seems to be more varied. For example, in some cases, it might be the drugs used to treat certain conditions that are causing oral health deterioration rather than the condition itself. In other cases, the disease can lower the body’s overall immune response, which can curtail its response to oral-specific infections, such as gum disease. Certain diseases, as well as specific drugs, can cause dry mouth, which reduces the production of saliva, a key natural preserver of oral health.
Health Conditions with Distinct Oral Health Links
Researchers are studying numerous potential links between oral health and overall systemic health, but among conditions receiving the most attention are:
- Cardiovascular disease—this link is observed by the fact that people with periodontal disease have higher rates of heart disease. Researchers believe that the link is likely related to bacteria from the periodontal disease spreading via the bloodstream into the heart valves.
- Pneumonia—researchers believe that some cases of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases may be caused or exacerbated by oral bacteria that gets pulled into the lungs.
- Pregnancy and birth complications—those with periodontal disease tend to have higher rates of premature births and deliver babies with lower birth weights. This link appears to go both ways, as pregnancy related hormone levels can cause swelling and bleeding of the gums.
Conditions That May Affect Oral Health
Numerous diseases and conditions may impact your oral health. Those receiving the most attention from researchers include:
- Diabetes—Those with diabetes tend to have higher rates of periodontal disease. Researchers believe that this may be caused by how diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection.
- HIV/AIDS—This disease causes painful lesions in the mouth and reduces the body’s ability to resist infection.
- Osteoporosis—As a bone-weakening disease, it also causes periodontal bone loss and related tooth loosening and loss.
- Alzheimer’s disease—The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is linked to a deterioration of oral health.
- Certain cancers—Many cancer-fighting drugs impede saliva flows and certain cancers can cause infections in the mouth.
Help Preserve Your Overall Health Through Dental Care
Because it seems like a healthy smile helps promotes a healthy body—and vice versa—strive to practice the best in oral health care by following these tips:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and make sure you floss at least once a day.
- Replace your toothbrush when bristles start fraying or at least every three months.
- Schedule regular dental cleanings and checkups.
- Contact your dentist if you experience any unusual pain, excessive bleeding, or noticeable infection in your mouth.
- Inform your dentist about any emergent medical conditions and detail all medications regularly taken.
- Eat a healthy diet and avoid tobacco products.
Protect Your Health with Island Tower Dentistry
If you would like to learn more tips about maintaining the best in oral and overall health, talk to Island Tower Dentistry’s Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke. You can contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004 to make an appointment!