Scientists are discovering more and more about the connections between dental health and the health of our entire body.
If our eyes are the windows of our soul, then our mouth is the main door of our body and teeth can be the windows of our health, according to growing evidence suggesting that there is a strong link between them. Which is something I have been saying as a holistic dentist for many years.
?If scientists are right – and the evidence is increasingly difficult to ignore – our oral health can play an important role in our risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even the health of a newborn. And this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
“There’s a lot of research out there right now trying to focus on the links between oral health and general health in both directions: poor oral health affecting general health and poor general health affecting oral health,” says Dr. Matthew Hopcraft, president of the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch Inc.
It’s not surprising, really. The whole body is connected, but for a long time, people and medicine have thought that the mouth is a separate part of the body and that dentists work isolated from the rest of the body. This clearly no longer makes sense, either anatomically or physiologically, since the mouth and teeth are part of you and are connected to the body by a large number of blood vessels and nerve supply, plus all of our food and drinks enter the body through the mouth.
ORAL HEALTH AND HEART DISEASE
It appears that poor oral health, and in particular the presence of inflammation in the form of gum disease, increases the risk of heart disease as well as stroke. A study by the University of Queensland found that bacteria found in the mouth, and more specifically in infected gums, are the most harmful. The group was able to locate T cells that are reactive to oral bacteria in the arteries of people with atherosclerosis, where damage to the arteries is caused by the accumulation of fatty deposits.
Finding oral bacteria inside the coronary arteries in people with heart disease is not something you would expect to find, but bacteria from the mouth found in a blood vessel in the heart suggests that this is where the link between gum disease and heart disease comes from. Because the mouth acts as a kind of portal, allowing bacteria to travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, especially in a person with gum disease as blood vessels swell and become more permeable, and they are more likely to allow bacteria or bacterial toxins from infected gums to enter the bloodstream where they travel to other parts of the body.
Our gums are too often neglected, even though the health of your gums can be just as important as the health of your teeth. In fact, it can be difficult to have healthy teeth without healthy gums.
DIABETES IS RELATED TO GUM DISEASE
Less is known about the relationship between gum disease and diabetes, but the evidence is increasing. People are now starting to do research and understand the links much more closely and it seems that there may be a link between gum disease and diabetes, but it is probably more the other way around. Therefore, people with diabetes are at greater risk of developing gum disease or gum disease that becomes more aggressive and causes more problems due to the altered immune response experienced by people with diabetes that makes them more susceptible to the bacteria that cause gum disease. Poorly controlled diabetics often have problems with the microvascular system, so small blood vessels tend not to function as well, which affects how the gums respond and heal to gum disease.
Treating gum disease can help with diabetes as if it could control gum disease; diabetes becomes easier to control. Diabetes is much more difficult to control if there is a continuous connection.
FROM MOTHER TO CHILD
The effects of dental health can even be passed from mother to child. Gum disease or gingivitis is associated with higher rates of preterm birth, so it is important to make sure that pregnant women have a visit to the dentist to treat any problems.