The Link between Oral Health and Overall Health

Good oral health is important; practising good oral hygiene can help prevent common dental problems, including gum disease and tooth decay. This is because a proper oral care routine helps prevent the buildup of bacteria in dental plaque, a sticky biofilm continually forming over your teeth and gums. Taking care of your teeth can prevent premature loss and greatly enhance the chances that they will last for life. However, there is also a strong link between dental health and overall health. As we discover more about how the two are connected, it highlights the importance of good dental care.

How Can Oral Health Affect General Health?

While most people know that poor oral health will lead to tooth loss and can cause gum disease, not everyone realises it’s also linked to other general health problems. These health problems include cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia and rheumatoid arthritis. For example, if you have gum disease, it can increase your chances of developing serious health problems. If you already have problems with your general health, then developing gum disease could worsen them.

The connection is due to the bacteria found in dental plaque. Normally, if you practice good oral care, most plaque is removed when you brush and floss your teeth regularly, and these harmful bacteria are confined to your mouth. However, if you neglect to brush and floss regularly, these bacteria can infect and inflame your gums, causing them to bleed more readily. As they bleed, harmful bacteria can easily enter your bloodstream, where they can go on to create new sites of inflammation around the body. If you have diabetes, for example, these bacteria in your bloodstream can make it harder to maintain stable blood sugar levels. At the same time, uncontrolled diabetes can increase glucose levels in saliva, fueling the very bacteria that can cause gum disease and worsening this condition.

When you see our dentist, we can often tell quite a bit about your general health when we examine your mouth and may be able to detect early signs of disease. For example, diabetes and AIDS can cause oral health problems like mouth sores, which can also be the case with other systemic diseases.

Did you know your saliva can reveal a lot about your dental health? Saliva testing can detect certain proteins and be useful when monitoring people with osteoporosis or checking cortisol levels.

These are just some reasons why we like to see our patients regularly, usually every six months. When you visit our practice for check-ups, we always like to review your medical history with you in case anything has changed so we can adjust your dental care plan if necessary. We will also do everything possible to help you gain and maintain good oral health between dental visits through dental education, and we can provide dietary advice if needed. By working together, we can keep your smile looking good and protect your general health at the same time.