The connection between oral health and general health
Many people have heard that there is a connection between oral health and general health but are not really sure if that is true and how oral health can affect general health. Scientists have researched the connection for many years and continue to make new discoveries all the time. In 2003 the World Health Organization published a report that confirmed, "the relationship between oral health and general health is proven by evidence." This is a very brief summary of their findings:
1. Poor oral health is significantly associated with major chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases.
2. Both poor oral health and poor general health produce disability.
3. The same risk factors for major diseases and poor oral health are the same. Risk factors include poor diet, poor hygiene, smoking, alcohol use, stress and trauma.
4. General health problems may show up first in a patients mouth and poor general health may worsen oral health.
The 2 most common connections I see in my office occur between poor gum health and patients that are pregnant or have cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes. During pregnancy hormonal changes can make the gum tissue become very inflamed and painful. Untreated periodontal disease during pregnancy can also lead to preterm labor and lower birth weights. It is very important to have your teeth cleaned prior to and during pregnancy. The other connection I often see is in patients with diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease. Patients that have these diseases often have more problems with gum health and the poor health of their gums can also make it harder for them to manage diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
The only way to accurately assess gum health is through periodontal probings- you know when your hygienists says all those numbers out loud?! Six probing points on each tooth should be probed regularly in adults.
At home you can help maintain your dental health through regular flossing (1x/day) and brushing at least 2 times per day for 2 minutes each time.
If you have more questions please do not hesitate to contact our office.