Relationship Between Oral Health & Systemic Disease
Did you know that your oral health is deeply connected to your overall health?
According to a popular saying – “Your mouth is the window to your overall health.”
The significance of oral health is often undermined. It appears seemingly unimportant to visit your dentist once in every six months as the natural tendency of approaching dental care only in case of toothache almost always overwhelms the thought of routine dental care.
This article is meant to enlighten you with the real connection between your mouth and your body so that you can value the magnitude of a healthy mouth.
Understanding the Connection
Our mouth is the first point of entry of the digestive system and is one of the entry points for the respiratory tract as well. Our mouth houses different kinds of bacteria that are harmless mostly. The ones that pose harm are kept under check through routine oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing. As the oral hygiene of an individual goes down, the harmful bacteria increase in its number causing oral infections that include dental decay and gum infection.
Few medicines like antihistamines, decongestants and antidepressants can lower the flow of saliva. There are many systemic diseases or conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome that can reduce the flow of saliva. Thinking why optimum salivary flow is important?
Saliva washes off the tiny particles of food leftover in our mouth. Due to the flushing action of saliva the bacteria, cannot multiply inside the mouth. Reduced salivary flow means a dry mouth. This means the bacteria can easily flourish inside the mouth and caused tooth decay or inflame the gums.
Apart from a dry mouth, bacteria can populate easily in the mouth when a person has diseases like HIV infection or diabetes. These ailments reduce immunity and make it easier for infection-causing microbes to establish themselves and cause various other diseases.
Systemic diseases Associated with Oral Health
There is a strong relationship between oral health and systemic diseases. Poor oral health can contribute to few diseases like-
- Endocarditis– This term means the infection of the inner lining of the chamber of heart and heart valves. Infection can occur due to bacteria that reach the heart from different parts of the body including the mouth. Once the oral bacteria reach the heart lining, they attach themselves to the lining causing the disease.
- Other heart diseases– Though the exact reason is not understood, it has been observed that different heart diseases, blocked arteries and even a stroke has a strong link to the infections caused by oral bacteria.
- Complications related to pregnancy– Premature birth and low birth weight has been noted in mothers who have severe gum inflammation (periodontitis).
- Pneumonia– Respiratory diseases like pneumonia can affect your lungs when oral bacteria move from mouth to the lungs.
There are few systemic diseases which can influence oral health like-
- Diabetes– Diabetics are more susceptible to develop gum problems because diabetes lowers the body’s capacity to fight infections. Hence, oral bacteria that cause gum infection take over and wreak havoc with the teeth-supporting system. Diabetes and gum disease are so interconnected that those diabetic patients with gum problems find it difficult to control their blood sugar levels. Therefore, professional periodontal care is mandatory for diabetics.
- Osteoporosis– Research suggests that osteoporosis has a convincing impact on the periodontal infection, supporting bone loss and loose teeth. As osteoporosis weakens the bones, it may lead to fracture of the jawbone as well.
- HIV infection– Oral mucosal lesions are one of the common findings in those who have HIV infection. This is one of the reasons why you should never miss your routine dental visit as these oral lesions may be misinterpreted by you, but not your dentist!
- Alzheimer’s disease– As Alzheimer’s disease there is a constant worsening of oral health as well.
You should inform your dentist regarding the medicines you are having so that you may get them substituted with those that do not have any side effects related to oral health.
Never underestimate your oral health as poor oral health can cause lasting damage to your overall health. Brushing twice daily and flossing at least once per day is the best armamentarium you have to fight off harmful oral bacteria. However, trivial they may sound these simple practices can actually make a lot of difference!