Most of the time, we write about things that are really specific to dentistry and oral health. You’d expect that from your dentist office. But, like you, we recognize that oral health is just one facet of your whole health picture. In this post, we’re going to talk about the connections between oral health and overall health. The human body is amazingly complex, and it’s fascinating to discover how it’s all interrelated.
We’ll look at this from two angles:
- Things your mouth-health can tell you about what’s going on the in the rest of your body.
- Ways your mouth-health affects the rest of your body.
What can your mouth tell you about the rest of your body?
Diseases that sometimes have oral symptoms include osteoporosis, HIV, blood disorders, Celiac disease, and eating disorders. How could these things be detected? Well, changes in jaw bone density that show up in a dental x-ray can be an early indicator of osteoporosis. Sometimes small lesions can be leading symptoms of HIV. Blood disorders can show up through changes in the color or sensitivity of your gums. Mouth ulcers are not among the most common symptoms for Celiac and Crohn’s disease, but they do show up periodically. Changes in tooth coloration can be symptomatic of anorexia or bulimia.
These are all things that your dentist can observe at any given checkup, and we want you to know we’re keeping an eye out for these sorts of things when you come in. Your whole-body health matters to us.
How does oral health affect the rest of your body?
The human mouth is full of bacteria! You’re probably aware of that already, and you probably also know that some of that bacteria is good and some are not. Most of the ways that your oral health affects the rest your body is linked, in some way, to all that bacteria. It’s not common for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream, but if it does, it can create significant complications, creating infections in other susceptible parts of the body. For example, endocarditis, which affects the heart, happens when bacteria from other places in the body attach to the lining of the heart and create inflammation. Other ways that the mouth affects the body include clogged arteries, pre-term labor, and diabetes. Although studies are still being conducted to find out exactly how and why some of these connections exist, periodontal disease (gum disease) in pregnant mothers seems to have a high correlation with pre-term labor. Diabetes is often a contributor to gum disease, but gum disease also makes it more difficult to control sugar levels in the blood, thus complicating the condition.
So there’s an overview of the two-way health street between your mouth and your whole body. Turns out that practicing good oral health habits and having regular visits with your dentist can pay off big time!