The Mouth/Body Connection
The mouth/body connection has become a hot topic in Australian dentistry today as mounting evidence shows that oral health care contributes significantly to one’s overall body health. Taking care of your teeth just to avoid fillings or bad breath is only one part of the story.
In this article, I like to both explain why basic oral health is so valuable and how periodontal disease is causing such serious problems. To do this, let’s start at the beginning…
Why is dental decay such a big deal?
- Caries – otherwise known as ignore decay
- Periodontal disease.
How does the process of tooth decay start?
This bacteria also combines with mucus and other particles, and forms “plaque” on teeth. If you manage to brush your teeth regularly, this will remove the plaque.
When plaque is not brushed away, it stayed in the tooth and turns to “tartar”. Unfortunately when this occurs, normal brushing will not remove the tartar. Only professional cleaning will do this. If not removed, this plaque will cause tooth decay.
How does Periodontal Disease start?
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria
Periodontitis is the progression from gingivitis, where inflammation occurs around the tooth, that left untreated, bones, gums and tissues become infected and are destroyed.
How much of a problem are dental diseases today?
70% of tooth loss is caused by tooth decay, 20% is due to periodontal disease, with 10% due to other causes.
Why is there a connection between oral health and general health?
The World Oral Health Report (2003) stated clearly that the relationship between oral health and general health is proven by evidence. Since that report, new evidence has emerged further strengthening the case.
Oral health and general health are related in four major ways:
- Poor oral health is significantly associated with major chronic diseases
- Poor oral health causes disability
- Oral health issues and major diseases share common risk factors
- General health problems may cause or worse in oral health conditions.
Another recent study has found that people with fewer than 10 of their own teeth are seven times more likely to die of coronary disease than someone with 25 of their own teeth. Furthermore, the authors of this study are confident that this presents a linear relationship between the number of teeth and death from cardiovascular disease, which indicates a direct link between oral health and cardiovascular disease.
With this knowledge, the direct number of teeth can be used to assess the increased risk of CVD in adults.
More emerging evidence supports the theory that individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to periodontal disease, or more likely to have the disease already.
A study in Korea has identified a relationship between total tooth loss and diabetes. Also, severe periodontal disease is associated with diabetes. Diabetics are more susceptible to infection anywhere in the body, which makes them more prone to any oral infections. This connection is so widely known; it is often referred to as the ‘sixth complication’ of diabetes. Individuals who have poor control over their diabetes are more at risk for developing periodontal disease than well controlled diabetics. There is also evidence suggesting that periodontal disease actually predicts the development of end-stage kidney disease in diabetic patients.
The negative relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease runs both ways. Diabetics are prone to periodontal disease because they have an impaired immune system. New evidence shows that the presence of periodontal disease possibly makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels than without it. This is because periodontal disease increases blood sugar levels. This puts diabetics at increased risk for diabetic complications.
Peripheral vascular disease
Adverse pregnancy outcomes
Currently there is a large body of evidence that clearly suggests that women with periodontal disease are more prone to pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) and to giving birth prematurely.
Pregnant women are hormonally more likely to develop or worsen existing periodontal disease and this will affect about three out of every four pregnant women. In turn, this exposes them to increased risk of premature birth.
Although reports linking obesity with oral health are conflicting, a new study has found that decayed teeth were more frequently diagnosed in teenagers of 15 years that were overweight, compared to normal-weight teens. Another study and recently shown that there is an association between childhood obesity and a reduced flow rate of saliva and dental decay.
Stay on top of your oral health
Dental professionals are often the first to discover the initial signs of disease…
Finally, it pays to remember that initially, gum disease may cause only subtle symptoms and therefore regular dental check-ups are imperative. See your dentist immediately if you ever see the following gum disease symptoms:
- pain while chewing
- sensitive or loose teeth
- persistent bad breath
- swollen, red, tender or bleeding gums
- receding gums or longer appearing teeth
This article was referenced from: “Links between oral health and general health – the case for action” by Dental Health Services Victoria