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Overall Health Begins with Oral Health

The Healthy Mouth-Body Connection

A wide range of clinical studies indicate that poor oral health is highly correlated with several chronic conditions, including:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke and Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Low-Birth Weight Pregnancy
  • Respiratory Diseases
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Liver Disease

These correlations happen because poor oral health allows more bacteria into your gums, leading to gum disease (also known as periodontitis) and the bacteria then enters your blood stream. Here are some examples of how this works.

High Blood Pressure

According to The American Heart Association, research indicates that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and gum disease have higher blood pressure readings than those without gum disease. They also seem to have less positive results from medication. “Good oral health may be just as important in controlling the condition as are… a low-salt diet, regular exercise and weight control,” said lead investigator Davide Pietropaoli, DDS, PhD.

Stroke and Heart Disease

According to The American Heart Association, a study found a high percentage of the participants who were treated for stroke had a strain of bacteria called streptococci in their bloodclot. These bacteria are commonly found in the mouth and they’re also linked to an infection of the lining the heart and heart valves called endocarditis.

Diabetes

According to the National Center for Biotechnical Information, people with diabetes are three times more likely to have gum disease, and gum disease can make it more difficult to manage diabetes. “Furthermore, the risk of death is three times higher in diabetic people with severe periodontitis (gum disease) than in diabetic people without severe periodontitis,” according to the Center’s Diabetologia publication, which goes on to say that oral health is integral to managing diabetes.

Low-Birth Weight Pregnancy

According to the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, there is a connection between gum disease and premature low birth weights because bacteria from inflamed gums that migrates into the into blood stream may stimulate the production of inflammatory mediators that promote delivery. You can read more about the recommended dental guidelines during pregnancy here.

Respiratory Diseases

According to the American Thoracic Society, “Teeth and gums are reservoirs for germs that can travel down to the lungs and harm them.” Respiratory infections can be caused by inhaling bacteria that contain germs. Unhealthy mouths can have more of these bacteria and more inflamed areas for them to travel into the bloodstream and lungs, increasing risks associated with pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dementia and Alzheimer’s:

According to a Harvard Medical School publication, the bacteria that causes gingivitis may also be connected to Alzheimer's disease. “This species of bacteria, called Porphyromonas gingivalis, can move from the mouth to the brain. Once in the brain, the bacteria release enzymes called gingipains that can destroy nerve cells, which in turn can lead to memory loss and eventually Alzheimer's.”

Liver Disease

Several correlations between oral health and liver health have appeared in recent studies, though due to small sample size more research is needed. Headlines capturing attention suggest a relationship between oral health and increased risk of liver cancer and pancreatic cancer, and increased complications for hepatitis C and cirrhosis sufferers. One theory for the oral/liver connection relates to the liver’s role in the elimination of bacteria from the human body, while another mentions tooth pain or mouth discomfort may contribute to a poor diet.

Oral health is a key to your overall health. Good news is, by following your dentist’s recommended oral health care guidelines, you are taking a proactive step towards a healthier whole you.

Regular dental visits, at the frequency recommended by your personal dentist, are an important part of good oral health habits.

SOURCES:

Mouth bacteria found in stroke patients' brains. What does it mean? American Heart Association News, May 2019, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/05/23/mouth-bacteria-found-in-stroke-patients-brains-what-does-it-mean

Dental Health and Lung Disease. The American Thoracic Society. ATS Patient Education Series 2019 https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/dental-health.pdf

Good oral health may help protect against Alzheimer’s, Harvard Men's Health Watch, September 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/good-oral-health-may-help-protect-against-alzheimers

P. M. Preshaw,1 A. L. Alba, D. Herrera, S. Jepsen, A. Konstantinidis, K. Makrilakis, and R. Taylor 2012 Jan. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship, Diabetologia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228943/

Carrie Thacker. October 22, 2018. Poor oral health linked to higher blood pressure, worse blood pressure control, Hypertension Journal Report https://newsroom.heart.org/news/poor-oral-health-linked-to-higher-blood-pressure-worse-blood-pressure-control

Rajiv Saini, Santosh Saini,1 and Sugandha R. Saini2. 2010. Periodontitis: A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants, Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217279/

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