The Oral Systemic Connection

Oral Systemic Connection

Improving oral health has become a leading health goal due to the oral systemic connection. Extensive research has linked the condition of our oral cavity to the condition of our overall health; meaning that you need to take good care of your mouth in order to have a healthy body. The lack of proper oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease which has been linked to many other serious health conditions. New York University College of Nursing has, therefore, incorporated a Teaching Oral-Systemic Connection Program (TOSH). The TOSH Program is an effort to encourage the general medical profession of the importance of a healthy mouth to the overall health your body.

The most widespread dental condition among American adults is periodontal (gum) disease. This particular oral problem is also directly connected to several serious general health problems, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and pregnancy and birth complications. Periodontal disease has also been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Watch the video below of famed physician Dr. Oz on Good Morning America explaining the consequences of untreated gum disease.

In the video, Dr. Oz talks about why its so important to maintain healthy teeth and gums in order to live a healthy life. With upwards of 80 percent of American adults suffering from some stage of gum disease, that same percentage is at a higher risk of developing the health problems listed above.

What is the Oral-Systemic Connection?

Numerous and extensive research studies have indicated a connection between oral health and general health. The same oral pathogenic bacterium that is associated with periodontal disease has been implicated in other diseases as well. The bacteria has been scraped from the arteries of heart patients, has been linked to pancreatic cancer, impotence in men, breast cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, lung infections, and even arthritic knees. Therefore, it is becoming firmly held by scientists and dental researchers that there should be a comprehensive focus on health that includes the oral cavity. As of right now, only dentists have been concerned with oral health, but it is believed that general practitioners need to be brought into the sway.

How Oral Health Can Affect Your Heart

It is important that we distinguish correlation from causation. Research does not indicate that oral health problems directly cause heart conditions. However, studies do indicate that poor oral health is a risk factor for heart disease. One reason for this is that patients with poor oral health tend to have a higher concentration of harmful bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria present on the teeth and gums are capable of entering the blood stream. Some research indicates that when these bacteria enter the bloodstream, they attach to fatty deposits in the coronary arteries. If blood clots form under these circumstances, these bacteria may contribute to heart attack or stroke. Another study suggests that gum tissue inflammation from periodontitis may increase the risk of plaque building up in arteries as well. Arterial plaque buildup restricts blood flow and strains the heart’s ability to pump blood.


The TOSH Program is all about encouraging the medical profession to add an oral health assessment to the traditional HEENT (head, ears, eyes, nose, and throat) exam. The HEENT exam would become the HEENOT (head, ears, eyes, nose, oral cavity, and throat) exam. Analysis of the oral cavity would consist of examining the teeth, gums, oral mucosa, and hard and soft palate. Students presently enrolled in the TOSH Program are already being educated in the HEENOT approach. They are developing the knowledge and skills needed to identify oral health issues and to educate their patients regarding the oral-systemic connection.

The connection is direct so don’t let the bacteria sit around

Believe it or not, protecting yourself from gum disease is a lot easier than most people think. While part of your susceptibility to this oral condition, as well as others, is reliant on genetics, the other part directly relates to how you care for your teeth and gums. By brushing thoroughly (at least twice a day for two minutes), flossing between each of your teeth at least once a day, and visiting the dentist every six months for routine dental cleanings and checkups, you are maintaining the foundation for a healthy smile and a healthy life.

Learn more about the oral-systemic connection

If you notice that your gums are red, swollen, tender, and bleed when you brush them, these symptoms are signs of onset periodontal disease, so it’s imperative that you see the dentist to get treated immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you will need invasive and extreme treatment to rid your mouth of this disease.

Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.