The Mouth-Body Connection - The Oral-Systemic Link
Your Mouth’s Health Affects Your Whole Body
You may have heard people referring to the mouth as the gateway to the rest of the body. Medical professionals have been finding increasing evidence demonstrating just how much the health of our mouths impacts the health of the rest of our bodies. This is the mouth-body connection, also known as the oral-systemic link.
Did you know that dental exams are often where diseases like diabetes, cancer, and Crohn's disease are first detected? Many of the early symptoms of these diseases appear first in the mouth. And, going in the other direction, it has been found that periodontal disease has connections with many other ailments that affect the rest of the body.
Much like we have the blood-brain barrier which keeps toxins in the blood from reaching our brains, there is also a sort of barrier that protects our bloodstream from the bacteria in our mouths. Gum disease can cause this barrier to break down, however, which can lead to issues that affect more than just our teeth and gums.
The exact nature of these links between overall health and oral health is still being researched, but the current belief is that inflammation plays a big role in the oral-systemic link. Evidence is showing that treatment of the inflammation caused by periodontal disease can help with the treatment of other inflammatory conditions.
What are some of the diseases with strong oral connections?
The American Academy of Periodontology reported that those with gum disease have an increased chance of developing various types of cancer. Specifically:
- Pancreatic cancer - 54% increased chance
- Kidney cancer - 49% increased chance
- Blood cancers - 30% increased chance
It's possible to aspirate (breathe in) bacteria from our mouths into our lungs. The same bacteria found in periodontal disease can cause respiratory conditions such as pneumonia.
Heart Disease and Stroke
It's been found that conditions that cause chronic inflammation, such as periodontal disease, have ties to conditions like stroke and heart disease, and can increase their likelihood of happening.
Diabetes and periodontal disease have been found to affect one another, with diabetes making gum disease worse and gum disease making it harder to control diabetes.
What are other diseases with connections to oral health?
The following have all shown some degree of connection with oral health:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Breast and prostate cancer
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Pregnancy issues
- Weight gain
With the links between all of these health conditions and oral health becoming increasingly clear, it should be obvious why it is important to deal with issues like gum disease as soon as possible. If you have concerns about gum disease, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Sachs.
In the following articles, we'll be taking a closer look at the connections between periodontal disease and diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
The Importance of Flossing
Flossing is an important part of your dental hygiene routine. Many people think that brushing is enough to get rid of the bacteria that are present in your mouth, but this is not the case. There are areas of your teeth and gums that a toothbrush cannot reach. When left unclean, this bacteria can begin to harm the tooth and surrounding gums, causing decay and gum disease.
As we will be exploring in this blog series, gum health has ties to many serious illnesses, which makes gum care vital to your overall wellbeing. If you have not regularly flossed in the past, it is not too late to start making that a habit each day.
If you would like to make sure you are flossing correctly, click here.
Heart Disease and Stroke
As we pointed out in a previous article, there are many health conditions that are tied to the state of your mouth. In this article, we'll be looking a little closer at the links between periodontal disease and conditions like heart disease and stroke.
Very strong links have been established between oral health and cardiovascular disease, but researchers are still trying to clarify whether or not there is a cause-and-effect relationship. Evidence appears to be indicating a strong connection between heart disease and chronic inflammation such as what is found in gum disease. This chronic inflammation is tied to the narrowing or blockages of blood vessels, which, in turn, can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
In an article examining a number of related studies, it was pointed out that having gum disease could increase a person's chance of having heart disease by nearly 20%. Another study showed that those with gum disease have nearly double the risk of suffering a stroke than those with healthy gums.
These are significant risk factors and should be enough to drive home the importance of treating periodontal disease for the sake of overall health.
Watch for the signs of gum disease
It's important to keep an eye out for the early signs of gum disease in order to stop it while it is still reversible. Red, swollen gums which bleed when you brush and floss can be the first signs of gingivitis. As this progresses into periodontal disease, the gums will begin to recede and form periodontal pockets, and ultimately the loss of gum and bone tissue that support the teeth.
If you have been diagnosed with gum disease and are seeking treatment, please get in touch with our office to schedule a consultation so that you can get back on the path to good oral health.