Learn how your dental health is a reflection of your general health, and how to protect your body by protecting your smile
There’s an epidemic in America.
And we’re not talking about Covid.
This one’s been around for decades, and it’s not a physical sickness. The epidemic we’re referring to is a disease of misinformation.
It’s hard to trace the source of the illness, but somehow it’s managed to affect a massive percentage of the population.
See, for whatever reason, we as a society seem to view and treat dental health as if it’s separate from overall health. And nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, treating these two as separate entities can be dangerous, and there’s plenty of scientific research to prove it.
The goal of today’s blog is to provide a “cure” for this issue and set the record straight once and for all.
Below, we’ll be discussing how your dental health can affect your overall health and vice versa, and how to protect your natural smile for the long-haul.
Oral Health & Overall Health Are NOT Separate
It’s funny because you never hear someone say, “Of course dental health and general health are separate. They obviously have nothing to do with each other,” out loud.
It’s a concept that we all just tend to accept one way or the other. Maybe it’s because we see one doctor when we’re sick and a different one when we need a dental cleaning. Or maybe it’s because the insurance system is divided into health coverage and dental coverage.
Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to understand that dental health and general health are two sides of the same coin.
In July of 2000, the Surgeon General put out a statement saying, “…oral health is integral to general health. You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health should not be interpreted as separate entities…”
The American Dental Association (ADA) takes this a step further by saying, “The mouth is a window into the health of the body…”
Suggesting that your dental health can have a significant impact on the rest of your body. And as we’re about to find out, they’re right.
The health of your mouth and teeth can affect your overall health a lot more than you might expect.
How Dental Health Affects General Health
If you take good care of your teeth at home and schedule regular exams and cleanings with your San Diego dentist, odds are you won’t have to worry about your oral health having an adverse effect on your body.
But poor dental hygiene can allow harmful bacteria and plaque to develop, leading to gum disease and gingivitis.
When enough bacteria builds up on your teeth, it can trigger an inflammatory response in your body, causing your gums to become red, swollen, tender, and even bleed when brushing or flossing.
Luckily, at this point, proper dental care and attention can fix the issue. But if you don’t change your habits at home or visit your dentist for a cleaning, then you’re at risk of developing periodontitis. And that’s where the bigger problems start.
Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease. It’s what happens when gingivitis is left unchecked.
As shocking as it may sound, this dangerous condition can have an impact on your circulation, lungs, and even your heart.
Periodontal disease has been shown to play a role in the development of the following conditions:
- Endocarditis – Harmful bacteria from your mouth can enter your bloodstream and cause infections in the inner lining of your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease – Bad bacteria in your bloodstream can cause plaque to grow on your arterial walls, reducing your blood flow.
- Heart disease and stroke – When blood flow is reduced in your body, you’re at increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
- Birth complications – Pregnant women with periodontal disease may be at increased risk of preterm birth and/or low birth-weight. However, periodontal treatment during pregnancy can help. Studies show a significant decrease in the rate of preterm births and an increase in birth weight with scaling and root planing treatments.
- Pneumonia – When you have a bacterial infection in your mouth, you’re constantly inhaling harmful bacteria into your lungs, which can lead to respiratory infections and even pneumonia.
Of course, these issues don’t just happen as soon as you get periodontitis. But they can develop over time if you avoid seeking dental care.
We’ll cover some signs and symptoms to look out for that warrant a trip to your San Diego dentist below.
But first, let’s learn how your overall health can affect your mouth, teeth, and gums.
How General Health Can Affect Your Dental Health
Remember, these aspects of your health are two sides of the same coin. Your overall health can have just as much of an impact on your dental health as the other way around.
The conditions below have all been shown to have a significant effect on oral health:
- Diabetes – Research shows that people with diabetes are more prone to gum disease and can develop more severe cases than those without it. Also, those with periodontitis may have a harder time controlling their blood sugar.
- Osteoporosis – This bone-weakening disease can lead to periodontal bone and tooth loss. Also, some medications used to treat this condition can put you at a slight risk of harming your jawbones.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Studies show that periodontitis may play a role in the development and inflammatory expression of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Sjogren’s syndrome – Sjogren’s is an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth. As we’ve discussed on our blog before, reduced salivary flow can lead to enamel breakdown and other oral health complications.
- Eating disorders – When your teeth are frequently exposed to stomach acids, it eats away at your enamel, causing erosion and eventually bone or even tooth loss.
- HIV/AIDS – These conditions can make your body more vulnerable to infection, making periodontal disease more severe. Often, people with HIV or AIDS will experience painful oral lesions as well.
- Esophageal and gastric cancer – Research suggests that people with periodontal disease may be at higher risk of developing these types of cancer.
As you may have noticed, about half of the conditions listed above are associated with aging. Meaning that maintaining your dental health only gets more important as you get older, whether you have periodontal disease or not.
To protect your natural smile, stay consistent with daily brushing and flossing and schedule regular checkups at your local dentist in San Diego.
When to Visit Your San Diego Dentist
Now that we know how closely related dental health and overall health are, let’s cover the early warning signs and common symptoms of gum disease and periodontitis.
If you notice yourself showing any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your San Diego dentist as soon as possible:
- Bleeding gums while brushing and flossing
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of your partial dentures
This list comes straight from the ADA. And they also suggest keeping your dentist up to date with any new illnesses or conditions that might affect your oral health.
Open communication like this can help them adjust your care to better improve the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Dental Care Isn’t Just Dental Care
When you care for your teeth, you care for your entire body.
At Dental Express, we work hard to improve your dental health, but we do it with your overall health in mind.
Gum disease and periodontitis can be a serious threat to your wellbeing, and when you trust us with your smile, we treat them as such.
If you’re showing any of the above symptoms, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We have six locations in the San Diego area specializing in top-quality dental care at an affordable price.
Feel free to schedule an appointment online or walk-in and see us at your convenience. We’d love to welcome you to the Dental Express family!