Oral Health: The Mouth-Body Connection

When a patient who feels poorly visits his physician nowadays, he may be surprised at his doctor’s recommendation.  Whether a patient has diabetes, heart disease, is pregnant, or just feeling poorly, physicians today are more apt to refer their patients to a gum specialist.  Research has shown there is a connection between oral health and overall body health.

In a recent study, people with serious gum disease were 40 percent more likely to have a chronic condition on top of the gum disease.  According to an article on WebMD, because your mouth is the gateway to your body, the health of your mouth can affect the health of your whole body.  The bacteria that builds up in teeth, makes gums more prone to infection.  When the immune system kicks in to attack the infection, the gums become inflamed, and if this inflammation is not brought under control, over time the inflammation and the chemicals it releases, eat away at the gums and the bone structure that hold teeth in place.  This inflammation is called periodontitis and it can cause health problems in the rest of the body.

Research has shown there is a strong relationship between both heart disease and diabetes and periodontitis.  Pamela McClain, DDS and president of the American Academy of Periodontology, stated, “Periodontal disease further complicates diabetes because the inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin.”  Why periodontitis affects heart disease is not fully understood, but 91 percent of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66 percent of people with no heart disease.  Research is ongoing between the link of periodontitis and such diseases as osteoporosis, rheumatoid  arthritis, lung conditions and obesity.

The study of oral health and overall body health is a relatively new area of study, but from the research completed thus far, there is definitely a connection.   By properly brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day,  and  going for regular dental check-ups and cleanings, you will not only have healthier gums and teeth, but have a healthier body as well.