Modern scientific evidence continues to connect the dots between your oral health and your overall health. You'll be surprised as you learn more about these important links. The eyes may be a window to the soul, but your mouth is a window to your body's complete health.
Did you know that the death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cervical cancer, Hodgkins disease, cancer of the brain, liver, testes, kidney, or skin cancer? Your oral health is connected to many other health conditions beyond your mouth. Sometimes the first sign of a disease shows up in your mouth. In other cases, infections in your mouth, such as gum disease, can cause problems in other areas of your body.
Did you know...
Gum disease can let bacteria enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc elsewhere in your body? Your mouth is teeming with bacteria. Usually we keep these bacteria under control with good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing. However, gum disease may provide bacteria a port of entry into your bloodstream. And medications or treatments that reduce saliva flow or disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth may also lead to oral changes, making it easier for bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Many researchers believe that these bacteria and inflammation from your mouth are linked to other health problems in the rest of your body.
Heres a look at other diseases and conditions that appear to be increasingly linked to oral health:
Research shows that several types of cardiovascular disease may be linked to oral health. These include heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and bacterial endocarditis. Some researchers believe that bacteria from gum disease can enter your bloodstream and travel through your arteries to your heart, affecting your cardiovascular system. Although periodontal disease seems to be associated with heart disease, more studies are needed before the link can be confirmed with certainty.
Pregnancy and birth.
Gum disease has been linked to premature birth. Some research has shown that disease-causing organisms in a pregnant woman's mouth can wind up in the placenta or amniotic fluid, possibly causing premature birth. Unfortunately, treating periodontal disease during pregnancy may be too late, because the infection may have already spread in the woman's body. This is why it's vital to maintain excellent oral health before you get pregnant.
Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth, and a variety of oral infections. Conversely, poor oral health can make your diabetes more difficult to control. Infections may cause your blood sugar to rise and require more insulin to keep it under control.
In some cases, one of the first signs of AIDS may appear in your mouth, with severe gum infection. You may also develop persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth.
The first stages of bone loss may show up in your teeth. Your dentist may be able to spot this on routine dental X-rays. If bone loss worsens from year to year, your dentist can suggest that you discuss the issue with your other health care providers.
Many other conditions may make their presence known in your mouth before you know anything's wrong. These may include Sjogren's syndrome, certain cancers, eating disorders, syphilis, gonorrhea and substance abuse.
So, what you can do about your oral health?
If you didn't already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, teeth and gums, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more. Resolve to practice good oral hygiene every day. And make Dr. Leamey an integral part of your lifelong oral health.
You're making an investment in your overall health, not just for now, but for the future.
* Portions of this information, courtesy of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). ©1998-2007. All rights reserved.