There is mounting evidence of links between your oral health and overall health. Research is still ongoing, but studies have shown for a long time that there is a connection between the mouth and systemic illnesses, a term used to describe conditions that affect the whole body. If you have a systemic disease, it lowers your body’s ability to fight off infection and inflammation.

A growing amount of evidence is showing that diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, and oral health complications during pregnancy are being linked to the impact of high-risk oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. While these studies are not conclusive, it is clear by any measure that gum disease isn’t helping the situation in any of these systemic conditions.

There are three ways oral disease may affect your overall health.

  • Bacteria from your gums enter the saliva, and from there it may adhere to water droplets with the air you inhale each time you breathe. These bacteria loaded droplets can be drawn into the lungs, potentially causing pulmonary infection and pneumonia.
  • Bacteria associated with periodontal disease (gum disease) can enter the body’s bloodstream through the gums around teeth and travel to all parts of the body. As the oral bacteria travels through the body, it can cause secondary infections, or it may contribute to the disease process in other tissues and organ systems.
  • The inflammation associated with periodontal disease may stimulate a second systemic inflammation response within the body and further complicate diseases that have inflammatory origins such as heart disease, diabetes, orthopedic implant failure and kidney disease.

The association between periodontal disease (gum disease) and poorly controlled diabetes is well-established, with a large body of evidence demonstrating the relationship between them. Often it goes both ways because periodontitis may affect blood glucose control, and people with diabetes may be more susceptible to bacterial infection, leading to gum disease.

The relationship between gum disease and cardiovascular disease or stroke is another link with a significant amount of research demonstrating a strong relationship between them in two ways. Bacterial plaque traveling from the mouth is the same type of plaque found in the hardening of the arterial walls of heart disease sufferers. Also, the infection caused by the bacteria in the mouth can cause chronic inflammation throughout the entire body.

The good news is that a good oral health routine and regular visits to your dentist can prevent periodontal disease. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily to help remove plaque from in between your teeth and under your gums. Visit your dentist at least twice a year for a checkup and cleanings. Eat a well-balanced diet to help maintain a healthy immune system. Visit SKS Dental in Arlington, and we can spot problems in the early stages and help you maintain good oral and systemic health.