Oral-systemic connection | How Oral Health Impacts Your Systemic Health

Oral-Systemic Connection

Your dentist has been well trained on the oral-systemic connection. Mouth microbes can enter the bloodstream and affect other areas of your body. Your body is made up of many different systems. But no one system exists in and of itself. Each system is dependent on the others. For instance, your brain (nervous system) tells your heart to be. at (circulatory system). Our muscles, skin, and organs rely on our skeletal system (our bones) to hold them up, but our bones can’t move without our brains telling our muscles (muscular system) to work. It shouldn’t surprise you then that the state of your oral cavity affects the state of all the other systems in your body, or your overall health. Although at one time brushing your teeth was simply to keep from developing cavities and to keep them clean and white, numerous research studies have indicated a link between dental health and everything from hypertension to heart disease.  Due to this oral-systemic connection, your oral health can be an indication of your overall health, and possibly a way to avoid health issues in the future.  In today’s blog, Dr. Fondriest discusses how your oral health can affect your overall health.

The Significance of Oral Bacteria

The most common and often destructive dental health issues stem from excessive oral bacteria. For instance, gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss, starts as a gum infection caused by specific types of oral bacteria, like Porphyromonas gingivalis. Some of these bacteria can lead to increasingly worse inflammation in your gums—the precursor to gum disease. When your gums do become infected and start to bleed, these microbes can enter the bloodstream and affect other areas of your body. Because of the full body inflammation that this oral-systemic connection causes, these bacteria can increase your risks of inflammatory conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Everybody is different as to how they react to this bloodstream distribution of bacteria. Your general health depends on the way your genes react to these factors.

How to Mitigate Your Health Risks

The best way to prevent gum disease from affecting your systemic health is to prevent it from forming in the first place. To do that, you have to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once, as well as stick to a biannual schedule of checkups and cleanings with your dentist. If gum disease does develop, then you can still prevent it from affecting your overall health by seeking expert periodontal treatment and maintenance as soon as possible.

What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Certain oral or other symptoms such as cavities, dry mouth, sensitive teeth, or waking up with headaches may be indicative of certain health issues.

Cavities: Most people equate cavities with too much sugar and not enough oral health care.  However, cavities can be a sign of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vitamin D is important to maintain strong, healthy teeth. A recent research study performed in Japan indicated a link between a lack of C and E vitamins with increased incidence of periodontal (gum) disease.

To help avoid cavities, decrease your intake of foods high in sugar and acids which erode enamel. Eat healthy and get proper nutrition by choosing nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts, and take a multivitamin daily.

Headaches: Waking up frequently with headaches can indicate that you are clenching and grinding in your sleep. Clenching and grinding is often caused by stress. The pressure on your teeth and jaw joint and the tooth to tooth contact from clenching and grinding (bruxing) can damage your teeth and cause other issues including:

  • Wearing down your teeth
  • Flattening your teeth
  • Causing chips and breaks in your teeth
  • Causing malocclusion (misaligned bite)
  • Earaches
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Jaw pain, soreness, or tightness in your jaw muscles
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

If you’re a bruxer, your dentist can custom fit you for a splint or night guard. Splints and night guards can help protect your teeth from wear and relieve the stress on your jaw joint, helping to alleviate jaw pain and headaches. You may need stress management to relieve stress and decrease symptoms. In severe cases reconstructive treatment to restore a proper and healthy bite may be necessary.

Dry Mouth: Chronic dry mouth and severe thirst may indicate hypothyroidism which is a hormone-related disease, or diabetes. If incorporating a humidifier into your home, and sipping or drinking water does not decrease the dryness and thirst, have your doctor test you for diabetes and hormone related diseases such as hypothyroidism.

Sensitive Teeth: Enamel erosion leading to tooth sensitivity and decay begins within 10 minutes of eating. To help combat this, rinse with water after eating, eat celery, carrots, or apples which cleanse the teeth, or chew gum containing xylitol. When harmful oral bacteria break down sugars a plaque biofilm is produced causing erosion and decay. Xylitol is a natural sugar that cannot be digested by harmful bacteria eliminating the production of plaque.

Tooth sensitivity caused by receding gums may indicate that you’re suffering from gingivitis which can develop into periodontitis, the major reason for tooth loss in adults. The buildup of bacterial plaque causes gingival inflammation which can travel to other parts of your body triggering other health issues.  

There are toothpastes for sensitive teeth and gums on the market such as Sensodyne, Colgate Sensitive, Crest Sensitivity, Aquafresh Sensitive, and Arm & Hammer Sensitive that can help alleviate painful symptoms associated with enamel erosion and receding gums.

Limit bacteria release through the Oral-systemic connection

It’s no secret that a healthy smile has an impact on your quality of life. Besides the confidence in showing your smile, you can also enjoy things like a lack of tooth discomfort and less worrying about tooth loss. However, the direct connection between your oral health and systemic well being isn’t as obvious, despite the fact that many patients experience that connection in the form of increased risks of chronic diseases. The oral-systemic connection impacts your overall health. Keeping your smile healthy matters for your overall quality of life.

Learn more about the Oral-systemic connection

Known as the oral-systemic connection, the relationship between your oral and overall health is a strong one, and can have a significant impact on your quality of life.

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