You may have heard that there’s a link between oral and general health. What goes on in your mouth can affect the rest of your body. Now, there’s a lot of interesting research on this. Some of it is just correlations or links between the two. And then there are other parts of the research that suggest there’s a very strong cause and effect potentially for different types of conditions. So, let’s take a look at some oral and general health links and see what we can learn about this relationship.
Oral and general health links explained
A common type of oral health problem is gum disease. This is a chronic inflammatory disease that too many people deal with. In fact, half of all American adults have some degree of gum disease. It has been associated with a number of health conditions that you may have heard about. Gum disease is really putting people at risk because we understand this correlation can have such an effect on general health. But, why is this?
It is because infections that are in your mouth will make their way into your bloodstream. There’s over 30 square inches of tissue in your mouth. If it becomes inflamed and raw in a sense and starts to bleed, then those bacteria that are causing the problem can enter the bloodstream and travel through the body very quickly.
Oral bacteria have been found in the brain, in heart vessels, in joints, and many other parts of your body. They’ve actually dissected these bacteria out. So, that does tell us something, that they are at least present in tissues that are having problems.
Diabetes and gum disease
Specifically, there are some pretty strong correlations between diabetes and gum disease. Diabetes really weakens the immune system. People with diabetes can also have more glucose in their saliva. This makes them vulnerable to infections.
Not only does diabetes put your gums at increased risk for gum disease, but once that infection becomes prevalent in the mouth, then diabetic patients tend to have more difficulty controlling blood sugar levels. It’s like a two-way street. So, you have to be very careful with this. Diabetes and gum disease are pretty strongly correlated.
Oral health and adverse pregnancy outcomes
Another interesting oral and general health links is the fact is that the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes has been associated with poor oral health. They have actually found oral pathogens or bad bacteria from the mouth that have infected placentas in pregnant women. Gum disease has been associated with low birth weight and preterm births and other pregnancy complications. So, this is a very real risk.
Gum disease, tooth loss, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Here’s something else that’s interesting. Gum disease and tooth loss increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Now, we don’t know all the reasons why, but again, when those bacteria enter the body, they can make their way to the brain. There’s a pretty large study that’s come out that looked at adults with signs of infections in the mouth. They found that such individuals are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. So, this is a very serious thing.
Oral health and high blood pressure
Bacteria that cause gum disease have been linked to high blood pressure. In fact, people that have gum disease have an increased risk of high blood pressure by up to 3 times. And so, we can only make a correlation here. We don’t know the cause and effect.
Oral and general health links in young adults
Pain is one of the top oral health problems that young adults report. Now, you may not consider pain a disease, but it is not normal. It is not normal for up to 30% of young adults to have visited the dentist within the last year due to pain. Usually, it indicates that something’s not right and points to oral and general health links.
Nutrition and oral health
Poor nutrition can damage your teeth. If you have a poor diet, it leaves you at risk for certain types of bacteria. Foods that are high in sugar and carbs and acids can weaken your teeth. Of course, when you get those types of problems, it can lead to infection. So, there are oral and general health links between a healthy mouth and nutrition.
Links between oral health and heart health
There’s very interesting research between oral health and heart health. The risk for cardiovascular disease actually increases with every tooth that you lose. There is much more that we can dive into, and I might do that with another video and blog.
Good oral health can lead to good general health
This last point is important. It doesn’t really have to be the case that poor oral health causes other health problems. We can detect oral disease. We can control oral disease. And by doing so, not only can we help you save your teeth and save a lot of time and money, but we can also help you with your general health and control your risk for many other diseases. There’s enough research to show oral and general health links, so this is important.
At Express Dentist, we have a trusted network of providers across the country. We can help you find a dentist that you feel comfortable with and whom you can get in and see. So, please feel free to reach out and we will help you get connected with a dentist in your area, so that you can protect not only your oral health but your general health too. In the meantime, read some common oral health mistakes that you should avoid.
About the author
Dr. Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.
As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.