Does Oral Health Reflect Overall Wellness?

by Guest Contributor

Grace Pamer, the love letters lady behind Romantic Frugal Mom, is joining us today for a very relevant guest post. We are thrilled to have her discussing the important health issue of whether oral health reflects overall wellness.

Lost First Tooth
By daveparker http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveparker/

Although researchers are still debating whether oral health simply reflects an overall state of health or does it interact at a deeper level actually aggravating certain health conditions, there is little doubt among dentists and periodontists that careful scrutiny of the teeth, gums and tongue can uncover yet unknown health problems throughout the body.

Some of the earliest warning signs of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions show up first as subtle changes in oral health. We have been trained to think of the body in a rather mechanistic way, and even the medical profession found it somewhat difficult to accept that things such as heart disease and high glucose levels in the blood could affect the health of the teeth and gums. But now there is a greater emphasis on how each process in the body is connected to all others, the heart is not really separately functioning from the kidneys, or the liver from the brain. Each metabolic process in the body directly or indirectly affects the entire body. So, we are no longer surprised when researchers find that something as seemingly distant as pregnancy complications is reflected in oral health.

Oral Health and Heart Disease

One link that has been established for quite some time is the connection between oral health and heart disease and stroke. It is not clear to researchers how cardiovascular health is linked to oral health, but they definitely know that periodontal disease such as gingivitis almost doubles the risk for coronary artery disease and heart attack.

What they don’t know is whether one causes the other or if there is something deeper going on that causes both problems. What they do know is that the same bacteria that cause plaque in the mouth are found in blocked arteries in the heart and most likely elsewhere in the body. Some hypothesize that inflammation of the gums in periodontal disease may cause increased inflammation throughout the body, including in the blood vessels.

Shark teeth
By Katatonic28 http://www.flickr.com/photos/midwestkimchee/

Oral Health and Diabetes

Another condition with a strong link to oral health is diabetes. The incidence of diabetes is on the increase, with researchers estimating there are thousands if not millions of people unaware that they even have this slow to develop disease. An alert dentist may notice warning signs before a medical diagnosis is even made, helping the patient get early care for the condition.

Signs of diabetes show up in the mouth as increased cavities, gingivitis, and fungal and other infections. The most recent research is showing that diabetes and gingivitis may have a mutually causal relationship, meaning that those with gingivitis may be at higher risk for developing diabetes, just as those with diabetes are at higher risk for periodontal disease.

Oral Health and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are another problem that can affect oral health. The strong stomach acids regurgitated by those with bulimia eat away at tooth enamel. Drug abuse, especially of methamphetamine, can destroy the gums and underlying bone structure that supports the teeth. Long-term stress can cause tooth grinding and jaw clenching that wears away and even breaks teeth.

Oral Health and General Health

Ongoing research is attempting to find the reasons behind the connections between oral health and general health, but while they are trying to determine exactly how these interactions happen, it’s a great idea to pay a little closer attention to your oral health. This means much more than just having bright, white teeth and a beautiful smile. It means taking meticulous care of your mouth, brushing and flossing regularly and visiting the dentist for routine cleanings. It also means paying attention to eating right to support both your oral and overall health!

About the Author

Grace Pamer is a mother of 3 and widely known as the love letters lady. She runs a popular love letters section on her blog www.romanticfrugalmom.com, a guide to help couples compose love letters for their nearest and dearest.



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