Oral systemic health is the relationship between oral health and our general well-being.
Systemic disease is any illness that affects your whole body while oral health disease is mostly localized to the oral cavity (mouth). In some cases, the systemic disease can be life-threatening. According to Steven Lin, a functional dentist, a healthy mouth is inseparably linked to a healthy body.’ Think of the oral cavity as a gateway or an interface between the body and the external world. In fact, some of the microbiota found in the oral cavity can be found in different parts of the body.
Systemic conditions caused by oral infections
Research shows that oral infections can increase the risk of certain systemic conditions, not only in immunocompromised individuals but also in healthy individuals. Some of those conditions include:
- Cardiovascular disease and pneumonia, whereby the bacteria in the mouth can seed to the heart and lungs and cause inflammation of the blood vessels and blood clots leading to heart attacks. In the lungs, the bacteria can cause pneumonia and bronchitis.
- Diabetes has a two-way oral-systemic relationship. In diabetics, poor oral health has been postulated to cause poor glycemic control which in turn reduces the body’s ability to fight infection-causing more frequent gum disease.
- With the increase in hormone levels particularly estrogen and progesterone, pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease which is a risk factor to premature low birth weight babies.
There are also oral manifestations of certain systemic conditions such as:
- HIV/AIDS – which is an immunocompromised state that can manifest as mucosal lesions of the mouth, a good example is an oral thrush.
- Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia can cause tooth discoloration
- Osteoporosis causes a decrease in bone density of the jaw bone that in turn increases tooth loss.
- Some autoimmune conditions (which is when the body is fighting itself) that affect the skin may present with ulcerations or lesions in the mouth.
- Stress can also manifest as certain oral health conditions such as grinding your teeth at night(bruxism) or in the form of painful mouth ulcers just to name a few.
- Gum disease is the number one leading cause of tooth loss in adults. The loss of these teeth can affect a person’s ability to eat a variety of nutritious foods which can lead to some nutritional deficiencies.
What can I do to improve my oral health?
The key to better oral health care that improves your overall health involves simple daily habits such as:
- Brush your teeth twice daily after meals using the proper technique.
- Regular dental visits at least twice a year.
- Floss daily to help remove any food particles in between your teeth.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that is high in fiber.
- Avoid sugary foods and smoking.
The understanding of the relationship between our oral health care and our overall health is paramount in empowering us to prioritize our dental needs. By establishing a good oral hygiene regimen and keeping up with routine dental care, you can enjoy better overall health.
Learn more about your dental health on our Frequently Asked Questions page here.