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Most people do not realize that our dental health and our general health are inherently linked. Below is a discussion of the various links to be aware of to maintain your health.

Oral Health = Overall Health?

 Just like most areas of the body, your mouth is full of various bacteria — most are just harmless but others can be far more dangerous. Your mouth is the beginning or entry to the digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these dangerous bacteria have been found to cause disease in the body.
In normal situations, a person’s natural immune system and maintaining good oral health can keep this bacteria in check. However, not following dentist recommended protocols can allow bacteria levels to reach new heights leading to oral disease and infections such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Prescription medications can also play a role — such as decongestants (example Sudafed), antihistamines (example Benadryl), painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can cause a condition known as dry mouth. Saliva is necessary to wash away food and neutralizes the acids that are produced by bacteria in the mouth. Saliva plays an important role in helping to protect you from bacteria that can quickly multiply and lead to disease in the mouth and body.

Recent scientific studies have been released suggesting that bacteria found in the mouth and the inflammation associated with the severest form of periodontal disease (periodontitis) might play a factor in some systemic diseases. General disease also has an affect on the oral cavity as well. Diseases such as diabetes and HIV(AIDS), can lower the body’s immune reaction to infection, making oral health problems even more severe.

Conditions can be linked to oral health?

Oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:
-Endocarditis – This is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) and typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body(possibly even the mouth) spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
-Cardiovascular disease(Heart Disease) – Although this connection is not yet fully understood, there has been some research suggesting that heart disease, clogged arteries and even stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
Pregnancy and birth complications – Gum Disease (specifically Periodontitis) has been shown to be linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
-Pneumonia – Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:
Diabetes Acts by reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes can put your gums at risk. Periodontal disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Studies have shown that diabetics who have periodontal disease have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can aid in diabetes control.
-HIV/AIDS – Oral issues, like painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
Osteoporosisis a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. This disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain prescription drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
-Alzheimer’s disease – Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses probably due to inability to maintain proper dental regimen at home.

Other conditions that are believed to be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome).

It is important that you tell your dentist about the various medications you take and about any changes in your overall health, especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

 To protect your oral health, practice and maintain a good oral hygiene regimen.
-Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste.
-Floss after every meal.
-Use an antiseptic mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
-Eat a balanced diet and limit food with excessive sugars.
-Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
-Maintain a regular schedule of dental checkups and dental cleanings.
-Avoid tobacco use. This includes chewing tobacco.

Conclusion

 Contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. The longer you wait the bigger than issue it may become both for your dental health as well as your overall health. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.


Recent research has begun to mount linking the oral health to the rest of the body. Did you know that more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms?  Oral health means more than just an attractive smile. Poor oral health and untreated oral diseases and conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life. In many cases, the condition of the mouth is a direct sign of the condition of the body as a whole. This means that it is even more important to seek regular dental care as your dentist might the one to notice oral signs of systemic disease developing.

Systemic Disease With Associated Oral Symptoms

Heart Disease/Stroke – Recent research has proven a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. The research results find that the bacteria present in periodontal disease does not just stay in the mouth but can move and travel throughout the body. It is believed that the bacteria moves from brushing, flossing, or eating and causes inflammation. The process of inflammation that affects the tissues in the mouth are what causes the heart disease issues. In periodontal disease, the body goes into an inflammatory state to rid the offending bacteria but in the process they are destroying good tissues and bone. When bacteria goes mobile and travels throughout the body, this bacteria can irritate the arteries which in turn will respond by creating arterial plaques. These plaques lead to decreased or blocked blood flow which in turn can cause a heart attack.

Diabetes – Diabetic patients are unique in that their disease reduces the body’s ability to fight infection. This reduced ability can lead to an increased occurence of periodontal disease. Diabetic patients need to increase their at home dental hygiene as well as see their dentist more often to ensure they do not succumb to their disease. Diabetics may experience burning mouth syndrome and fungal infections, such as thrush and oral candidiasis. Dry mouth may also develop, causing an increased incidence of tooth decay. To prevent problems with bacterial infections in the mouth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, prescription mouth rinses, and more frequent dental cleanings.

Gastrointestinal Diseases – These diseases include Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD). The oral cavity is the portal of entry to the GI tract. In the case of GERD it is not uncommon to see tooth enamel erosion from the acids in the stomach entering the mouth and for the other diseases, the presence of regular ulcers can be a sign of colitis or Crohn’s disease. Obviously these ulcers alone would not be a diagnosis for them in absence of other symptoms.

Hematologic (Blood) Disorders – Mucosal conditions, such as glossitis, recurrent aphthae, candidal infections, and angular stomatitis may be more common in patients with anemia. Glossitis can be the first sign of a folate or vitamin B-12 deficiency. The tongue appears red, and the papillae produce a smooth appearance. Angular stomatitis is commonly caused by a candidal infection, and it has been linked to a deficiency in iron. If the anemia persists, a person may have decreased resistance to infection.

Sjogren Syndrome – This disease predominantly affects women (9 women to 1 man) and primarily affects those over age 50. Oral changes can include difficulty in swallowing and eating, changes in taste and speech, increased tooth decay, and an increased chance of infection, all due to a decrease in saliva.

HIV/AIDS – The oral symptoms include candidiasis (oral infection), Karposi’s sarcoma, increased herpes outbreaks, as well as human papilloma virus (HPV) infections.

Conclusion

The above list is by no means comprehensive, but it goes to show you how various diseases affecting different parts of the body can appear and affect the mouth. Scientific research continually furthers the evidence that the mouth is a window to your health. While your dentist may not be able to definitively diagnose any of the above diseases they can be an early communicator of the symptoms developing to give you a better chance of recovering from the effects of these diseases. Some believe that increased dental health and oral hygiene have led to an increased chance of autoimmunity to certain diseases and conditions.