The Links Between General and Oral Health

Oral health is essential to general health and well-being at every stage of life. A healthy mouth enables not only the nutrition of the physical body, but also enhances social interaction and promotes self-esteem and feelings of well-being. The mouth serves as a ‘window’ to the rest of the body, providing signals of general health disorders. For example, mouth lesions may be the first signs of HIV infection, ulcers can occasionally be a manifestation of Coeliac disease or Crohn’s disease, pale and bleeding gums can be a marker for blood disorders, bone loss in the lower jaw can be an early indicator of skeletal osteoporosis, and changes in tooth appearance can indicate bulimia or anorexia.

Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with mostly (harmless) bacteria. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause disease. Normally the body's natural defences and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease. Furthermore, certain medications such as antihistamines, painkillers and antidepressants can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.

Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some, more serious afflictions. And certain diseases, such as diabetes can lower the body's resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

· Endocarditis- This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.

· Cardiovascular disease- Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.

· Pregnancy and birth complications- Periodontal disease (gum disease) has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

· Pneumonia- Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

In addition, some conditions can also affect your oral health, including:

· Diabetes- By reducing the body's resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.

· HIV/AIDS- Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.

· Osteoporosis- This bone-weakening disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.

· Alzheimer's disease- Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer's disease progresses (read our blog from September 2018 for more information on this).

As you can see, the human body is incredibly complex, and it’s fascinating to learn exactly how your oral health informs your general health and vice-versa. And it really goes to show how important maintaining your oral health is- so if you would like advice or have a query about your dental health, simply give our team at JL Dental Care a call on 020 8958 0136 and we’ll book you in for an appointment as soon as possible.

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