8 Chronic Diseases That Are Linked to Oral Health

Good oral habits can protect from chronic disease

Oral Health Triggers for Chronic Disease and the Mouth-Body Health Connection

Did you know that your oral health and your physical health share a direct connection?

The mouth-body connection is strong, and despite known correlations between many oral health problems and chronic diseases in the body, many individuals are unaware of how important their smile really is. Dr. Staley has a passion for dental care and a desire to teach patients how their physical health and oral health are intertwined. The healthier your smile, the healthier your body, and vice versa.

Let’s take a look at why your mouth and body share such a strong correlation.

What’s happening in your mouth affects your body.

Your oral health is one of the top 10 indicators of health. People who have smiles free of decay and gum disease are typically healthier overall, with reduced risks of developing physical diseases or health disorders. This is no coincidence.

Your mouth plays a central role in your body. Your teeth chew the food that fuels your energy. Unhealthy teeth can cause pain and reluctance to eat, and missing teeth can make chewing difficult, leading to nutritional deficiencies. Healthy teeth and a full smile not only make a person feel great but also ensure pain-free eating, ideal chewing ability, and unlimited food choices.

Another important factor is that your mouth is a vascular area of the body, meaning it’s rich with blood vessels. You already know that a healthy vascular system is crucial for a healthy heart and blood pressure, but you might not know that oral infections can contaminate your body through these blood vessels.

When severe decay or gum disease leads to active infection, the bacteria present can make their way into your bloodstream through the very thin tissue in your mouth. In fact, this is one of the leading suspected causes of many of the chronic diseases we’re discussing next.

Chronic Diseases Linked to Oral Health

When it comes to diseases, disorders, and other health conditions that are connected to oral health, the list is shockingly long. However, there are a few that tend to be more commonly related—either from poor oral health triggering the condition or worsening the condition’s symptoms.

These better-known chronic health problems include:

1. Cardiovascular Disease

From blocked arteries to endocarditis, cardiovascular diseases tend to occur more often in patients with poor oral health. This may be largely due to bad oral bacteria entering the bloodstream through the mouth, which can cause narrowing of the arteries. Similarly, this bacteria can also inflame the lining around the heart.

2. Diabetes

Patients with diabetes are much more prone to infections, which means poor oral health can really do a number to their overall health. Periodontitis, or gum disease, in a diabetic patient can be incredibly tough to treat as their lowered immune response makes healing difficult.

3. Pregnancy Complications

From reduced fertility to low birth weight, poor oral health can impact nearly every level of pregnancy. Periodontitis is often the culprit in these cases. Additionally, it’s believed bad bacteria can also be transmitted to the baby in utero.

4. Pneumonia

Bad bacteria in your mouth can be breathed in and become trapped in your lungs. This causes irritation and invites respiratory infections to occur. Pneumonia is one of the most dangerous infections, and many of those who battle pneumonia regularly often struggle with their oral health.

5. HIV

HIV isn’t caused by oral health, but it does negatively impact oral health. Symptoms like painful oral lesions aren’t uncommon in patients with HIV. These lesions can be symptoms of oral cancer, which in turn can make other systemic symptoms much worse.

6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis doesn’t just impact bone health in certain parts of the body. This disease also weakens the jawbone, causing pain and tooth loss and complicating restorative dental care.

7. Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have also come into the light as serious health problems linked to oral health. Similar to heart disease, these issues could be caused by oral bacteria entering the bloodstream and even impact the nervous system. This bacteria can harm the brain, causing memory loss and damaged brain cells.

8. Cancer

Oral, throat, pancreatic, and blood cancers are specifically linked to poor oral health. These are often due to lifestyle factors that produce heightened risks, such as tobacco use, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption. However, periodontitis and its associated bacteria may also increase the risks of oral and throat cancer.

Your dentist does more than just care for your smile.

Visiting your dentist isn’t just about having clean teeth. It’s also an important step in caring for your entire body. Your dentist will help you maintain optimal oral health and reduce your risk of developing or worsening the health conditions mentioned above.

You can safeguard your mouth-body connection by brushing twice a day for two minutes, flossing at least once daily after your last meal, and avoid sugar, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol as much as possible. Most importantly, make sure to visit your dentist every six months for a preventive checkup and cleaning, and be sure to book an urgent appointment for toothaches or anything abnormal you may notice.

Are you due for a professional dental cleaning? Book your appointment today by calling our downtown Boise office or using our online form.