The link between oral and overall health and wellness explained by Fort Lauderdale, FL dentist
Most people know that taking good care of their teeth and gums is important for their oral health… but did you know that is also essential for total body health and well-being? At Go Natural Dentistry in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Dr. Yolanda Cintron and our entire team of dental professionals have a deep understanding of the intricate connection between oral health and your overall health and wellness. Every diagnosis and treatment we provide is designed with this connection in mind, from the use of biocompatible materials to therapies that help restore health and harmony to your teeth, gums, bone, and oral joints—and in turn, the rest of your body. Read on to learn more about the link and just how your oral health affects your entire body.
How oral health is connected to systemic disease
For many decades in dentistry, teeth and gums were treated with little regard for the effects they had on the rest of the body. The best example of this is the pervasive use of metal amalgam fillings, which have a high mercury content and while effective at filling teeth, could lead to potentially toxic effects, allergies, and other issues in the body… not to mention long-term dental problems such as tooth fractures due to the use of a material that expands and contracts at a different rate than natural teeth.
The Meridian system from ancient Chinese medicine has long been used to describe the connection between the teeth and other areas of the body, impacting how energy (or “qi”) flows through channels or meridians that link different areas of the body. Each tooth is connected to one or more areas of the body through these meridians, and if a particular tooth is unhealthy, you may experience negative health effects in that corresponding bodily area – even though the health issue, such as digestive problems, may be in a completely separate area of your body from your mouth!
Modern research has also begun to shed light on just how interconnected your oral health and total body health really are. One of the most well-researched topics in this regard is the link between gum disease and other chronic, and potentially deadly, conditions.
- Patients over the age of 70 who have had gum disease for over a decade are 70 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people without periodontitis
- People who have gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease—a risk that is even higher than that of people who have high cholesterol
- Gum disease can make someone up to three times as likely to die from a stroke
- Pregnant women with gum disease are more likely to go into pre-term labor
- Gum disease can raise blood sugar levels, and gum disease is associated with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, having a more difficult time controlling diabetes, and a higher risk of experiencing eye and kidney damage due to diabetes
- Patients with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of developing autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Insufficient oral hygiene has also been associated with a greater risk of developing respiratory infections and pneumonia
As you can see, while it can be easy to think that periodontal disease only affects your gums, in reality it has a negative impact on nearly every system in your whole body. The reason for this connection is not entirely understood, but researchers believe it is due to the underlying inflammation from the bacterial infection. When you have gum disease, the bacteria and corresponding inflammation can travel through your bloodstream to every area of your body, creating a cascade of inflammatory responses.
The path to improved oral health and well-being
The mouth and jaw area are very complex and consist of many different structures that need to be in balance to work properly—in addition to the oral microbiome, which is invisible to the naked eye.
When your bite is off, you clench and grind your teeth at night, or even just one or a few teeth have uneven biting surfaces, it can cause problems for your entire mouth and the sensitive temporomandibular joints (TMJs), leading to unnecessary pain in both the mouth and other areas such as the head, neck, and shoulders. Restoring health to these areas through holistic and biocompatible treatments can help eliminate pain and improve your health.
The oral microbiome is the ecosystem of over 700 types of bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in your mouth. Just like the bacteria in other parts of your body (such as your digestive system), not all of these microorganisms are harmful—in fact, some are neutral and others are actually quite beneficial and promote better health. However, some of these microorganisms are pathogenic and can cause serious health problems. The goal in restoring oral health is to create a better balance between the different types of bacteria so that the damage caused by pathogenic bacteria is minimized and the benefits from the good bacteria are amplified. Both science and industry have caught on to this and exciting new developments are currently being explored, such as salivary diagnostics, to help identify the types and relative numbers of different types of microorganisms in a patient’s mouth.
Dr. Cintron is here to help you learn about the vital connection between your oral health and overall wellness, and is happy to answer any questions you may have. In addition, you can trust the team at Go Natural Dentistry to place your overall health and well-being first in any treatment recommendation they provide. Call our Fort Lauderdale, FL office today at (855) 381-6001!