Link Between Oral and Overall Health
By Jon Mikami, RPh, and Kelly S. M. Go, RPh, Molokai Drugs, Inc.
The health of your mouth may mirror your overall health. What’s the link? Good dental care helps prevent a buildup of bacteria and inflammation from gum disease. And that may help protect other parts of your body. Researchers need to conduct more studies to confirm the possible links, but evidence is growing.
Research suggests that heart disease and stroke may be linked to bacteria in your mouth. For example, a recent worldwide trial of nearly 16,000 people showed a strong link between oral health and heart health risk factors in people with chronic heart disease. Gum bleeding was linked with higher levels of “bad” cholesterol and high blood pressure. Other studies show that heart attacks are more common in people who have dental disease.
Research also shows a connection between diabetes and gum disease. But which leads to which? It actually goes both ways. Gum disease may get worse if you have diabetes. Some even call it the “sixth complication of diabetes.” People with diabetes who have gum disease also have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels. And this may make it harder to manage their disease.
There appears to be a link between gum disease and premature birth and low birth weight. Affecting the other end of the lifespan, early tooth loss may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. There’s also a bit of evidence pointing to a link between bone and tooth loss and weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis).
Taking good care of your teeth and gums can also affect your general quality of life. If you’re in pain or have missing teeth or infections, that can affect how you speak, eat, and interact with other people. As you can see, good dental health isn’t just about staying cavity free.
How can you know whether or not you have gum disease? After all, millions of people don’t know they have this serious infection. The obvious step is to see your dentist.
Also, check for signs and symptoms of gum disease such as red, swollen, or tender gums; bleeding when you brush or floss; loose teeth; bad breath; sores or pus in your mouth; or a change in your bite or the way your partial dentures fit.
Another important thing to know about oral health is that certain medications, such as antihistamines and diuretics, can have side effects that affect your mouth. Bring us a list of your medications and we can talk over how to minimize or manage any side effects you may have.
While you are in our drugstore, stock up on the products you need to maintain good oral health: toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. Don’t forget to replace your toothbrush every three to four months—sooner if the bristles become worn. Combine these daily practices with regular dental checkups and a healthy diet. And, you’ll be well on your way to good oral health—and a healthier body, too.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.