Did you know that the health of your smile can affect the health of your entire body? While the eyes may be the window to the soul, your oral health is a window to your overall health. What does this mean exactly? It means that your oral health is directly related to your overall health. Thus if your oral health is in jeopardy, your overall health may soon follow suite.
This is because your mouth can act as an infection source, meaning that it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Although it is not normal for bacteria to enter your bloodstream, this can quickly change once your mouth’s natural defense system is compromised. Once inside the bloodstream, bacteria may be eradicated if you have a healthy immune system. However, anything that compromises your immune system can put you at a higher risk for developing infections elsewhere in the body.
The most common oral health condition associated with contributing to various medical conditions is gum disease. Although the exact correlation between the gum disease and these conditions is still being researched, gum disease has been labeled as a possible contributing factor to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and pregnancy complications.
Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease because they are less resistant to infections. Although diabetes is not necessarily caused by poor oral hygiene, it can make it more difficult to manage blood sugar levels. In fact, studies have shown that treatment for gum disease can actually help to improve diabetes management.
There has been research to suggest that inflammation and infections caused by excess bacteria in the mouth can result in heart disease, stroke, and clogged arteries. In fact, the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry found that out of 1,000 participants, individuals with gum disease were twice as likely to die from a heartattack and three times as likely to have a stroke.
Additionally, if bacteria from your mouth is able to travel through the bloodstream and attach to the inner linings of the heart, it can cause an infection known as endocarditis.
If bacteria from your mouth is able to travel through the bloodstream and into your lungs, then it can cause pneumonia and various other respiratory diseases.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to developing gum disease due to the various hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. However, advanced gum disease can put them and the baby at risk for premature birth, preeclampsia, and low birth weight.
Dr. John Batlle attended the UF College of Dentistry where he received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1983. After graduating, he worked for the State of Florida and received his commission in the Navy Reserve Dental Corps. He was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002 where he served as the dentist for Detainee Operations and Navy Hospital GTMO. He recently retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve after 26 years of service.