You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities. The oral cavity is a diagnostic tool that can help detect systemic disease, as well as play dual roles in cause and effect regarding many systemic diseases.
Your oral health offers clues about your overall health. Over the past few years, researchers and physicians have amassed a trove of evidence showing that not only can the gums and teeth act as a barometer for how well the body is doing, they may directly affect the health of the heart, metabolism, brain, and even penis.
Most often, this connection, has to do with periodontal disease/gum disease. Nearly 1/2 of U.S. adults have Periodontal Disease, and even more have the milder form of gum redness and swelling/inflammation — Gingivitis.
ALMOST EVERY MEDICAL CONDITION HAS SOME KIND OF MANIFESTATION IN THE MOUTH.
“The mouth is the body’s most common entry point for infection, yet doctors have almost universally ignored it”, says Wenche S. Borgnakke, a University of Michigan periodontal health researcher and a dentist who for decades has urged M.D.’s to take the health of the mouth more seriously. “Almost every medical condition has some kind of manifestation in the mouth,” she says. “Yet until two or three years ago, medical schools basically taught that the body began at the tonsils.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Harvard endocrinologist William Hsu, another of the new breed of oral health investigators: “I call the mouth the ‘black hole’ of the body, because it’s a mystery to most medical folks.”
THE SURPRISING LINK BETWEEN YOUR ORAL HEALTH AND SYSTEMIC DISEASE
In 2000, the US Surgeon General issued a report on Oral Health in America
“ORAL HEALTH” means much more than healthy teeth. It means being free of chronic oral-facial pain conditions, oral soft tissue (gums) lesions and inflammation, oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, and scores of other diseases and disorders that affect the oral, dental, and craniofacial tissues, collectively.
WHAT CONDITIONS CAN BE DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY POOR ORAL HEALTH?
- Infective endocarditis is a serious and often fatal systemic disease that has been associated with dental diseases and treatment. There are over 1,000 case studies associating dental procedures or disease with the onset of endocarditis. These controlled studies all show an association of dental procedures with bacterial endocarditis.
- No other systemic diseases or conditions have been studied so extensively, although several other disorders are linked to dental diseases.
- A 2003 review of nine previous studies found that people with periodontal disease had a 20% increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, compared with people without periodontal disease.
- A 2005 study from researchers at the University of Florida found oral bacteria inside artery plaque.
- Studies have shown that people with gum disease are -twice as likely as others to die from a heart attack, and -3 times as likely to have a stroke.
Pregnancy/Premature Birth/Low Birth Weight:
- Studies have linked periodontal disease in pregnant women with an increased risk of premature birth. While these studies cannot prove that gum infections cause preterm birth, as well as low birth weight.
- A 2011 study from Australia found that women with periodontal disease took longer to become pregnant than those without the condition.
- Bacteria in the mouth may also find their way to the lungs if a person breathes in tooth plaque. This may cause pneumonia or other severe respiratory disease. The risk for this happening is highest in people with underlying conditions, such as conditions that compromise the immune system. It is likely that most pathogens first colonize the surfaces of the oral cavity before being aspirated into the lower airways.
- Bacteria in the airways can also worsen chronic lung conditions, such as emphysema, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- A British team tracked Alzheimer’s patients over six months and found that the group with gum disease suffered cognitive decline at six times the rate of the group without.
- Researchers have found that women who had gum disease had a 14% overall increased risk of breast cancer over women who didn’t have gum disease.
- The percentage jumps to over 30% if the woman smokes, or has smoked in the past 20 years.
- A 2012 study suggested oral bacteria may contribute to knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists found traces of gum bacteria in the knees of people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, adds more evidence of the link between poor oral health and poor health in general.
- Researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland traced the passage of bacteria in the mouth to the fluid surrounded the kneecap, called synovial fluid. By analyzing the DNA of the bacteria, the researchers could determine that the progeny of the gum bacteria entered into the bloodstream and settled in the synovial fluid, which was in a weakened state as a result of arthritis. “In healthy people, the synovial fluid is more or less sterile,” said study leader Nabil Bissada, chairman of the department of periodontics at the Case Western School of Dental Medicine. “Bacteria can make the diseased area much, much worse.”
- You have up to a three times greater chance of developing ED if you’ve got Periodontal Disease, according to new research. While the vessels in the penis rarely accumulate plaque, they’re even more vulnerable to a restriction in blood flow. “The vessels in the penis are only about one-quarter the size of your coronaries,” Baylor College of Medicine urologist Larry Lipshultz says. “So theoretically you’re going to see vascular effects in the penis before you will in the heart.” A 2013 Turkish study did find that men with self-reported ED saw an improvement in their symptoms after receiving periodontal therapy.
WHAT CONDITIONS CAN DIRECTLY AFFECT YOUR ORAL HEALTH?
Numerous systemic diseases with oral findings include autoimmune, hematologic, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and neoplastic processes.
- Of the 57 possible systemic conditions currently being studied in connection with periodontal disease, diabetes has yielded the clearest evidence. A 2011 study found that dentists could identify people with Diabetes 73 percent of the time based on only a count of their missing teeth and an examination of the abnormal openings between the tooth and gums. If the dentists took into account results from blood tests, the accuracy increased to 92 percent.
- More than 7 million people with diabetes don’t know they have it, and dentists could play a role in identifying those with the disease, the study concluded.
- It’s important to let your dentist know about all the medications that you take. That’s because certain medications can influence dental treatment decisions. In the case of antiresorptive agents—medicines that help strengthen bones—these medications have been associated with a rare but serious condition called osteonecrosis (OSS-tee-oh-ne-KRO-sis) of the jaw (ONJ) that can cause severe damage to the jawbone.
- It’s not possible to say who will develop osteonecrosis of the jaw and who will not. Most people (more than 90%) diagnosed with ONJ associated with these medications are patients with cancer who are receiving or have received repeated high doses of antiresorptive agents through an infusion. The other 10% (of people with ONJ) were receiving much lower doses of these medications for treatment of osteoporosis.
- It may be beneficial for anyone who will be starting osteoporosis treatment with antiresorptive agents to see their dentist before beginning treatment or shortly after. This way, you and your dentist can ensure that you have good oral health going into treatment and develop a plan that will keep your mouth healthy during treatment.
And more, like
Auto Immune System Disorders:
At this point, it may seem obvious that oral health influences overall health. So why did we ever divorce the mouth from the body? Blame it on the Middle Ages. Back when it was the barber-surgeons who trimmed hair and extracted teeth, and the learned physicians who pronounced judgments (mostly wrong) about the rest of the body. But while surgeons have vaulted into the medical elite, dentistry remains apart as a distinctly lower-caste form of health care and an afterthought in our health insurance system. Dental insurance is typically an expensive add-on to employer-based health plans, and out of reach for many Americans: One-third of us go without dental coverage.
SO, AN OUNCE OF DENTAL PREVENTION CAN BE WORTH A POUND OF MEDICAL CURE.
In a 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Researchers looked at the dental and medical insurance records of several hundred thousand people who had, among other conditions, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. If they’d had at least one routine teeth scraping, their medical costs, and their likelihood of being hospitalized, dropped!
We need to start thinking of the mouth as an ecosystem of bacteria that can drive health and/or sickness, similar to how we now view the gut. With so many studies having been done, and so much information is easily accessible about this subject, it seems obvious and justified to state that “Good ORAL HEALTH is important not only to prevent oral disease but also to maintain good OVERALL GENERAL HEALTH.”
The Importance of Providing A FULL Medical History to Your Dentist
Often, because people might not realize the ways that their oral health affects the rest of their body, they may neglect to provide their full medical history to their dentist, such as medications they are taking. People don’t believe that we need to know some of that information, because they don’t think it’s related to dentistry, but IT ABSOLUTELY IS!
For instance, people taking medications for breast cancer, prostate cancer, or osteoporosis may not realize that these drugs affect the ability of bone to heal normally. If we do an extraction, the bone may not heal properly, which could result in an infection, or longer than normal healing time.
You Need A Long-Term Thinking Partner And Advocate
Many dental practitioners continue to take a procedure-focused approach to patient care rather than an outcome-focused approach.
Recommending a procedure to a patient as a menu option is not as effective as positioning restorative/prosthetic/orthodontic needs as part of a lifelong journey to achieve a dentition that is healthy and maintainable.
Here at The Dental Implant Center, we like to help you with your long term, life plan for your dental health; whether it be just cleaning your teeth now and then and keeping an eye on thigs for those of you who are fortunate to not have decay issues or gum disease, or more – for those of you who have had periodic or progressive restorative needs.
Many times, we can look down the road and see what’s likely coming at us, dental-wise. And oftentimes, we can design a game plan to have more control over the options and outcomes of the treatment you might need now or in the future, or do things in phases over time, to fit into your life under your control; without waiting for things to reach an “emergency” or “total redo” state.
We don’t just want to fix you up and send you on your way.
We want to be your long-term dental care provider. We are here for YOU.
We offer a complimentary consultation and x-rays to all new patients. If you would like answers to your dental questions, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a visit.
Our number is 214-956-9100. We’re happy to help.
US National Library of Medicine_National Institutes of Health
American Academy of Family Physicians
2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America