Recent scientific discoveries continue to connect the dots between oral health and overall health. You may be surprised as you learn more about these links. Your eyes may be the window to your soul, but the mouth is a window to your body’s overall health.
The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of Hodgkins disease, cervical cancer, brain, liver, kidney, testes and skin cancer. Your oral health is also connected to other health conditions outside of your mouth. Often the first sign of a disease shows up in your mouth. In other instances, infections in your mouth, like gum disease, cause issues in other areas of your body.
DID YOU KNOW?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, can allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream and cause major issues elsewhere in your body. Your mouth is crawling with bacteria. Usually these bacteria are kept under control with proper oral health care, like daily brushing and flossing. However, gum disease can provide bacteria access into your bloodstream. Medications or treatments that limit saliva flow or disrupt normal bacteria balance in your mouth can also lead to oral changes, making it easier for bacteria to get into your bloodstream. Many researchers believe that bacteria and inflammation from your mouth are directly linked to other serious health problems in the rest of your body.
Here are some other health issues identified with gum disease:
- Cardiovascular disease | Research demonstrates that several types of cardiovascular disease can be linked to oral health. These include: clogged arteries, heart disease, stroke and bacterial endocarditis. Some even believe that bacteria from gum disease enters your bloodstream and travels through your arteries directly to your heart, affecting the entire cardiovascular system. More research is needed to conclusively prove these theories, but the evidence is rapidly mounting.
- Pregnancy and birth | Periodontal disease (gum disease) has been linked to premature birth. Some research suggests disease-causing organisms in a pregnant woman’s mouth may wind up in the placenta or amniotic fluid, potentially causing premature birth. Treating periodontal disease during pregnancy may be too late, because infection may already have spread in the woman’s body. It is vital to maintain optimal oral health before you get pregnant.
- Diabetes | Diabetes can increase your risk of cavities, gum disease, dry mouth, tooth loss and a variety of oral infections. Poor oral health can also make your diabetes more difficult to control. Infections can cause blood sugar to rise and require more insulin to keep it under control.
- HIV/AIDS | Sometimes one of the first signs of AIDS may appear in your mouth as severe gum infection. People can also develop persistent white spots or unusual lesions on the tongue or in the mouth.
- Osteoporosis | The first stages of bone loss may also show up in your teeth. Dr. Ratcliff may be able to spot this during routine dental X-rays. If bone loss continues to worsen, we may suggest you discuss the issue with your other healthcare providers.
- Other conditions | Other conditions may make present themselves in your mouth before you know anything’s wrong. These may include certain cancers, Sjogren’s syndrome, syphilis, eating disorders, gonorrhea and substance abuse.
HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR ORAL HEALTH
Resolve to practice good oral hygiene every day. And make Dr. Ratcliff’s Arlington dental practice an integral part of your lifelong oral health. You’re making an investment in your oral health and overall health, not just for now, but for the future as well.
* Portions of this information, courtesy of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). ©1998-2007. All rights reserved.