Understanding the ‘Oral-Systemic Link’
There is a strong connection between your mouth and the rest of your body—both positively and negatively. It is called the oral-systemic link, which refers to the relationship between oral health and overall health.
Poor oral health can increase your risk of several serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory ailments. Conversely, good oral health can help improve overall health and wellbeing, allowing you to lead a long and happy life.
The Negatives of Poor Oral Health
There are many ways that poor oral health can impact your overall health. For example, infections in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Doctors have linked bacteria from gum disease to heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Additionally, poor oral hygiene can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease, which can cause pain and inflammation, making it hard to keep a healthy diet. But there are even more potential impacts, including the following:
There is also evidence linking oral health to pregnancy complications*. Poor maternal oral health could also create an increased risk of preterm birth, a higher chance of low birth weight, and preeclampsia. While the exact mechanisms by which oral health can impact pregnancy are not fully understood, most doctors believe that the bacteria associated with gum disease can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body, affecting the health of both mother and baby.
A recent analysis led by National Institute on Aging (NIA) scientists suggests that bacteria that cause gum disease are also associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, especially vascular dementia.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to plaque and bacteria buildup in the mouth, leading to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and eventually periodontitis, a severe gum infection. Periodontitis is often linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, meaning it is very important to brush and floss daily for better overall health.
In addition, the bacteria that cause periodontitis can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, contributing to the development of atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Poor oral health can also lead to other problems that can indirectly increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. For example, people with periodontitis are more likely to develop diabetes, and diabetics are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
How to Protect Your Oral Health
There are several things you can do to protect your oral health. Here are just a few tips:
Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss once daily. Doing so will help remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums and prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Eat a balanced diet. A healthy diet is vital for overall health, including oral health. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks that damage teeth.
Quit smoking. Smoking is one of the leading causes of gum disease and other oral health problems. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your oral health.
See your dentist regularly. Even if you brush and floss regularly, it’s essential to see your dentist for professional cleanings and checkups. Your dentist can spot problems early and recommend treatments or changes in your oral care routine.
Protecting Your Oral Health at Four Rivers Periodontics and Implant Specialists
At Four Rivers Periodontics and Implant Specialists, we are passionate about helping our patients achieve optimal oral health and wellness. We offer a comprehensive range of periodontal services, from dental implants to gum disease treatment, that can help improve your oral health and overall wellbeing.
Contact us online or call our compassionate staff at (636) 242-6450 today!
*J Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2019 Dec; 20(4): 264–268.Published online 2019 Nov 28. doi: 10.4274/jtgga.galenos.2018.2018.0139