Last Updated on April 28, 2023 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS
How dental health affects overall health? Oral health is important and is related to overall health and well-being. The mouth is full of various bacteria, including those related to tooth decay, periodontal (gum) diseases, and systemic diseases that affect overall health. These bacteria are usually kept under control with good oral hygiene, such as daily brushing and flossing. When harmful bacteria grow out of control, they can cause gum infections and provide a port of entry into the bloodstream.
According to the California Childcare Health Program, poor oral health, and especially periodontal disease, can negatively influence other conditions, either by increasing the risk of their occurrence or by causing poor disease control. In addition, oral health can show signs of disease, general infections, and nutritional deficiencies. In Channel Islands Family Dental we will discuss how dental health affects overall health.
The influence of oral health on other pathologies is mainly produced in two ways:
● Bacteremia: It is the passage of bacteria into the bloodstream and, from there, to any part of the organism. These bacteria can colonize other parts of the body and exert their damage there.
● Systemic inflammation: The local inflammatory response mediators can pass to the systemic level or exert a systemic inflammatory response. The intensity of the inflammatory response depends more on the individual’s immune system than on the bacterial plaque load or composition.
How dental health affects other health diseases?
Several research studies by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research have indicated a relationship between severe gum disease and certain diseases that affect the body, including diabetes and heart disease.
1. Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world. Cardiovascular diseases include those caused by the formation of atheroma plaques: coronary heart disease (myocardial infarction), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), peripheral vascular disease, and arterial hypertension. Some authors suggest that C-reactive protein, which is increased in patients with periodontitis, could play a very important role as a cause of atherosclerosis. Live periodontal bacteria have been found in atheroma plaques; it has even been shown that periodontal bacteria can invade endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells of the coronary artery, increasing the risk of myocardial infarction. People with periodontitis are at increased risk of acute myocardial infarction, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. This relationship is so evident that it has already been included in the latest European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in clinical practice, which includes periodontitis as a cardiovascular risk factor. Periodontal treatment can improve the levels of inflammatory cytokines and the concentration of C-reactive protein, among others, thus helping to reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases.
Occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of the body, such as the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach themselves to certain areas of the heart.
3. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth
Several changes occur during pregnancy that can have repercussions at the oral level, such as bacterial overgrowth and increased sex hormones. All this favors the appearance of gingivitis in pregnancy. It is important to note that the changes of pregnancy itself do not cause gingivitis but rather exacerbate an already existing inflammatory response. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. Pregnancy gingivitis is very prevalent (60-75%), but it is reversible following oral hygiene with specific products and good control in the dental clinic. Its seriousness lies in the fact that, if left untreated, pregnancy gingivitis can evolve into periodontitis. Therefore, scientific literature has shown that periodontitis increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as premature birth, low birth weight babies, and even preeclampsia. Prevention of gum problems or their treatment, if already present, is necessary to avoid these possible pregnancy complications.
Diabetes and periodontal disease have a bidirectional relationship since they can influence each other. Local and systemic inflammation is the most common feature of diabetes and periodontitis. In periodontitis, inflammatory mediators are produced in response to bacteria in the periodontium that can spread through the bloodstream, resulting in increased systemic inflammation. The high levels of cytokines produced in this systemic inflammation may contribute to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of diabetes by two pathways: by inhibiting insulin signaling and by increasing the destruction of beta-pancreatic cells and leading to increased hyperglycemia.
Certain bacteria present in the mouth can be carried into the lungs and cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
How other diseases affect oral health?
Certain conditions can also affect your oral health, for example:
1. Diabetes: By reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more common and more severe among people with diabetes. The hyperglycemia characteristic of poorly controlled diabetics causes a pro-inflammatory state at the systemic level, through the secretion or alteration of some substances and functions (adipokines, cytokines, etc.). This systemic inflammatory response can reach periodontal tissues and affect their synthesis and condition: it decreases the reparative function of periodontal tissues and increases their destruction. Diabetic patients are four times more at risk of developing periodontitis. In addition, research shows that people with gum disease have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. Frequent periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
2. HIV/AIDS: Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people with HIV/AIDS. In addition, by suppressing the immune system, people run the risk of becoming infected by organisms that in normal conditions and numbers would not cause harm, as is the case of the Candida fungus that is very common in immunocompromised patients causing Candidiasis.
3. Osteoporosis: This bone-weakening disease is related to periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain medications used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the jawbones. It is also of particular caution if the patient requires invasive treatments such as tooth extractions while taking their medication.
4. Alzheimer’s disease: Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
5. Medications taken for other conditions can cause dry mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay, thrush, and other oral infections. Vitamin deficiencies can have serious effects on the mouth and teeth. Tobacco use and poor eating habits can affect the mouth and face.
How can I protect my oral health?
To protect your oral health, Channel Islands Family Dental recommends practicing good oral hygiene daily.
1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush using fluoride toothpaste.
2. Floss daily.
3. Use mouthwash to remove food particles that remain after brushing and flossing.
4. Follow a healthy diet and limit foods with added sugar.
5. Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles are open or worn.
6. Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
7. Avoid tobacco use.
If you have any questions about how dental health affects overall health or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Islands Family Dental as well as our page on Facebook. We look forward to your visit and we will make a timely diagnosis. Our dentists in Oxnard, Santa Paula, Ventura, Newbury Park, and Port Hueneme will be able to guide you toward the best treatment to take care of your health and give you back your best smile.