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How Does Your Oral Health Affect Your Overall Health?

| Reviewed By Sneha Krishnan

Growing up, one of the most important habits taught to all of us is brushing your teeth. Healthy teeth are critical and also central to your overall health. Brushing, flossing and rinsing are the ABCs of oral health and let me remind you, achieving healthy teeth involve a lifetime of care and attention. Yes, you have to be attentive of your oral health, for the pearls to be healthy and shining!

But, did you know that your oral health plays rather an important role in your overall health? With the mouth and body being integral to each other, oral health is essential for the general health of an individual - at any stage in life.

In this article, we take a look at the relationship between oral health and overall health.

Link Between Oral Health And Overall Health

Just like any other part or organ of your body, your mouth too is vulnerable to diseases and infections. Your mouth can be defined as the entry point to the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and your entire internal system. The bacteria present in mouth are mostly harmless but some can cause complications within your body, studies reveal.

Dental plaque, a sticky and colourless film which clings on to your teeth are caused by the bacteria present in your mouth; and is one of the most common causes of dental problems which pave way for other severe health issues [1] .

Proper and regular oral care can help prevent the onset of various diseases, along with the support of your immune system [2] . However, lack of proper oral hygiene can result in oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease, which can further alleviate into diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular health problems etc.

According to several studies, oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with oral infections can pave the way for various diseases by hindering with the body's ability to resist infection and diseases. Also, several oral conditions and treatments can pose certain risks to your overall health [3] .

Infographic by Kshitij Sharma

Here are some ways to keep your teeth healthy.

Now, let's read about the different health conditions caused by poor oral care.

Systematic Diseases Related To Oral Health

Your oral health is directly linked to various diseases, studies reveal.

Diabetes and oral health: Studies point out that, individuals who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Periodontitis, a gum infection that damages the soft tissue and the bone that supports your teeth has a strong link to diabetes. The inflammation caused by the oral condition can weaken your body's ability to control blood sugar, by impairing the ability to utilise insulin [4] .

Heart disease and oral health: Although studies are still being conducted on understanding the exact link between the both, it is asserted that heart disease clogged arteries and stroke can be caused due to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause [5] .

Lung disease and oral health: Some studies have pointed out a connection between oral diseases and lung health. Periodontal disease may increase the risk for pneumonia, as well as worsen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by increasing the number of bacteria in an individual's lungs [6] .

Osteoporosis and oral health: Several studies have pointed out that women suffering from osteoporosis have gum disease more often, in comparison to others. That is, the inflammation caused by periodontitis may weaken bone in other parts of the body [7] .

Rheumatoid arthritis and oral health: Although much has not been found on the link between these two, periodontal disease treatment has shown to provide pain relief for individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis [8] .

Apart from these, oral health is also associated with obesity (oral diseases progresses rapidly in obese individuals), pregnancy complications (infection and inflammation can interfere with the healthy development of the foetus).

So, it can be easily understood that oral health is not separate but a critical part of your overall health. Your mouth and your body are not different but interlinked - your body can affect your mouth and likewise, your mouth can affect your body. Taking proper and regular care of your teeth and gums can help avoid the onset of several severe diseases [9] .

For starters, start brushing twice a day, floss once a day and make regular dental checkups a priority.

FAQs About Oral Health

Q. Can weight affect oral health?

Ans: Although it does not affect your weight per se, obese individuals are prone to have worse oral health than normal-weight individuals. Obese individuals have a six-fold higher risk of severe gum disease.

Q. Can rotten teeth kill you?

Ans: Yes. Untreated oral health infections can kill you.

Q. Can an oral infection cause digestive problems?

Ans: Problems associated with your oral health can be linked to poor digestive absorption. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are linked to oral infections [10] .

Q. Can a tooth infection affect your whole body?

Ans: Yes. An infected tooth can result in the spread of infection to nearby parts of the body such as the jaw, neck, sinuses, and even the brain.

View Article References
  1. [1] Glick, M., Williams, D. M., Kleinman, D. V., Vujicic, M., Watt, R. G., & Weyant, R. J. (2016). A new definition of oral health developed by the FDI World Dental Federation opens the door to a universal definition of oral health. British dental journal,221(12), 792.
  2. [2] Jin, L. J., Lamster, I. B., Greenspan, J. S., Pitts, N. B., Scully, C., & Warnakulasuriya, S. (2016). Global burden of oral diseases: emerging concepts, management and interplay with systemic health.Oral diseases,22(7), 609-619.
  3. [3] Min, A., Behzadi, L., Kim, A., Gil, J., Silva, C., & Ojcius, D. (2019). Association between oral microbiota and systemic health.
  4. [4] Jepsen, S., Stadlinger, B., Terheyden, H., & Sanz, M. (2016). Guest editorial science transfer: oral health and general health-the links between periodontitis, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.Journal of clinical periodontology,42(12), 1071-1073.
  5. [5] Batty, G. D., Jung, K. J., Mok, Y., Lee, S. J., Back, J. H., Lee, S., & Jee, S. H. (2018). Oral health and later coronary heart disease: Cohort study of one million people.European journal of preventive cardiology,25(6), 598-605.
  6. [6] Schmalz, G., Wendorff, H., Marcinkowski, A., Weinreich, G., Teschler, H., Haak, R., ... & Ziebolz, D. (2018). Oral health related quality of life depending on oral health and specific factors in patients after lung transplantation.The clinical respiratory journal,12(2), 731-737.
  7. [7] O Mullane, D. M., Baez, R. J., Jones, S., Lennon, M. A., Petersen, P. E., Rugg-Gunn, A. J., ... & Whitford, G. M. (2016). Fluoride and oral health.Community dental health,33(2), 69-99.
  8. [8] Serban, S., Dietrich, T., Lopez-Oliva, I., de Pablo, P., Raza, K., Filer, A., ... & Hill, K. (2019). Attitudes towards Oral Health in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Qualitative Study Nested within a Randomized Controlled Trial.JDR Clinical & Translational Research, 2380084419833694.
  9. [9] Yamashita, Y., & Takeshita, T. (2017). The oral microbiome and human health.Journal of oral science,59(2), 201-206.
  10. [10] Pasquale, L. R., Hyman, L., Wiggs, J. L., Rosner, B. A., Joshipura, K., McEvoy, M., ... & Kang, J. H. (2016). Prospective study of oral health and risk of primary open-angle glaucoma in men: data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.Ophthalmology,123(11), 2318-2327.
Sneha KrishnanGeneral Medicine
Sneha Krishnan
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