The Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health

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July 23, 2014 by Janet

Many people think of oral health and the health of the rest of the body as two different things. Did you know that recent research has shown that there is a link between the two? Not only do we feel better about ourselves if we have a healthy smile, but our overall health may be improved as well.
When levels of bacteria in the mouth get too high, complications can arise elsewhere in the body. These excess levels of bacteria have been linked to increased risk for heart disease and stroke, respiratory infections, diabetes, and, most recently, complications in pregnancy.
Heart Disease and Stroke: bacteria in the mouth can enter the blood stream through the gums and contribute to hardening of the arteries. Although a link has been established between excess levels of periodontal bacteria and heart disease and stroke, it is unclear why. Some scientists believe it is the body’s immune response to the bacteria that triggers inflammation throughout the cardiovascular system, narrowing the arteries.
Respiratory Infections: inhaling the bacteria from the mouth can lead to an increased risk for lung diseases such as pneumonia and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Furthermore, the same bacteria can make existing lung conditions worse.
Diabetes:those with diabetes have a lower immune response and impaired healing which can greatly increase the risk for gum disease. Having gum disease can increase the chance for diabetic complications. High levels of bacteria in the mouth can increase blood sugar levels and affect the body’s ability to cope with high blood sugar levels. Controlling oral bacteria can improve management of diabetes and improved management of diabetes can improve oral health.
Complications in Pregnancy: hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can greatly increase your risk for gum disease. Poor oral health in pregnant women has recently been linked to an increased risk for a pre-term birth, low birth weight and pregnancy hypertension.
As you can see, oral health and overall health can greatly affect each other. Your dental healthcare team is knowledgeable about all things related to oral health. We have a vested interest in your oral and overall health. Don’t hesitate to speak to a member of our team about any concerns you may have and we can work together to help you be your healthiest you!