Living with Chronic Pain

The Connection Between Oral Health and Overall Health


Proper dental hygiene is essential for oral health and overall well-being. Some aspects of oral health are impacted by certain health conditions. Likewise, problems in the mouth can affect other systems of the body. Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that is linked to various health concerns, including heart attacks and strokes.

How oral health impacts overall health

Poor dental hygiene can exacerbate certain chronic conditions. Below are ways that poor oral health can negatively impact overall health.

  • Bacteria — Most bacteria in the mouth is harmless and controlled through oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing. However, if bacteria levels become too high and enter the bloodstream or other parts of the body, it can cause health complications. This includes pneumonia, complications with pregnancy or birth, etc.
  • Diabetes Researchers have established a connection between gum disease and diabetes. Individuals with diabetes who have appropriate treatment for gum disease through regular periodontal care typically have better diabetes control and less need for insulin. Wounds in the mouth that do not heal properly can be an indicator of diabetes, suggesting the need to visit a primary care physician.
  • Dry mouth Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is an uncomfortable condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva. Saliva washes away food particles, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria, and limits bacterial growth. A lack of saliva could cause microbes to multiply and contribute to disease. Dry mouth could also be an indicator of an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — Scientists have discovered that periodontal disease may create an immune response in the body, leading to inflammation that causes rheumatoid arthritis. Bacteria that originate in the mouth can also be found in joint fluid, contributing to early onset and swift progression of RA. Long-term gum inflammation may also negatively impact the effectiveness of certain medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Nutrition — A healthy mouth is an important factor in the ability to consume healthy meals. Oral health concerns, such as untreated cavities, may contribute to poor nutrition. Poor nutrition leaves the body lacking nutrients that are needed to sustain good health.
  • Cardiovascular diseases — Poor oral health increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This includes coronary artery disease, clogged arteries, strokes, and endocarditis. Endocarditis is inflammation of the lining of the heart valves. It is caused by a bacteria infection that could occur when extracting a tooth.

How overall health impacts oral health

Maintaining dental hygiene while dealing with chronic pain can be especially difficult. Other health situations that may impact oral health are listed below.

  • Diabetes In addition to oral health impacting diabetes, diabetes can also influence oral health. Diabetes causes individuals to be more susceptible to infection, including gum disease.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis Similarly, rheumatoid arthritis may affect the gums the same way it affects the joints. Some individuals with severe rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop gum disease.
  • HIV/AIDS — Individuals with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to oral conditions, such as painful lesions. This can cause problems with nutritious eating habits and dental anxiety.
  • Osteoporosis Osteoporosis causes bone weakening throughout the body, including the mouth. Bone deficiencies in the jaw can cause tooth loss.
  • Other conditions that can impact oral health include Alzheimer’s disease, eating disorders, fibromyalgia, and prostate cancer.

Individuals should practice thorough oral hygiene by brushing and flossing the teeth twice a day and visiting a dentist on a regular basis. They should also consult a primary care physician or specialist as needed to obtain proper treatment for any conditions that may impact oral health.

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