The importance of good oral health is well known; something we’ve all been taught from a young age. To avoid cavities, gum disease and tooth loss, regular visits to the dentist is crucial. However, there are also links between poor mouth health and poor body health that are not as commonly known. In this article, we will examine some of the surprising connections between the health of the mouth and the health of the body.
The connection between diabetes and periodontitis is one of the strongest of all the connections between the mouth and body. The inflammation originating in the mouth due to periodontitis weakens the body’s ability to control blood sugar. According to Pamela McClain, DDS, former president of the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease further exasperates diabetes because the inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin. But, because of the relationship between periodontics and diabetes, getting one condition under control will result in better management of the other. Good blood glucose control is vital to controlling and preventing mouth problems.
According to Robert Bonow, MD, past president of the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, although there are threads of evidence between oral health and heart disease, they’re not yet tied together. However, many experts tend to agree that there are credible reasons why mouth health and heart health may be intertwined. Several of the large National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) concluded that gum disease is a significant risk factor for diseases of the blood vessels. Data from another study of more than 50,000 people found that those with fewer teeth and more gum disease had a higher risk of stroke. And yet, other studies have uncovered no association between gum disease and stroke. Despite the lack of absolute evidence completely linking gum disease and heart disease, the factors are significant enough to warrant more studies.
People with low bone mass might experience oral problems that their dentist may recognize as the first stages of osteoporosis. There are several signs that alert dentists to the possibility of osteoporosis such as bone loss in the jaw and around teeth, tooth loss, loose or poorly-fitting dentures, and gum disease. Early intervention can often prevent the broken bones and tooth loss that accompanies advanced osteoporosis.