Oral Systemic Connection & The Holistic Approach to Dentistry

There has long been a school of thought that the overall health of your body cannot be isolated to a single organ system, but instead one part of the body affects the health of the other.  Could your overall health therefore be put at greater risk by tooth decay? Current research suggests there is a mouth body connection. Your oral health could be an indicator of greater problems, such as heart disease.

It has long been the practice of any dentist with a biological approach to treat the body as a whole when providing treatments for oral care.

A simple check of your teeth and gums may give you an early warning and prevention of systemic diseases like diabetes.  Simply learning good oral hygiene practices could allow you better control over your blood sugar and blood pressure. Worth booking that dentist check up?

Often the tiny culprit to blame is plaque. Plaque is a soft deposit made of food debris and oral bacteria. It is near invisible and can easily build up in the hard to reach places between your teeth, even when you are brushing and flossing regularly.

A build up of plague can cause several problems such as:

  • Gingivitis. This is a gum disease that causes inflammation.  Your gums may get red and become swollen. Often there may be pain or bleeding when brushing and sometimes during eating.
  • Periodontal disease.  This is a deterioration of the bone around your teeth. One sign of periodontal decay is loose or wobbly teeth, to the point a tooth may even fall out.  Another is bleeding gums.
  • Pocket formation.  A pocket is a gap that develops between your teeth and your gum line. As your gum recedes, it leaves your teeth exposed, sometimes right to the root of the tooth. Often the consequence is increased sensitivity, pain and an easy place for bacteria to build up.
  • Calculus build up. A hardened form of plague that can no longer be brushed or flossed away.
  • Dental caries. This is the scientific name for a cavity. As the protective layers of your tooth,  the enamel, is destroyed, harmful bacterial can reach the vital soft parts in the centre of your tooth, the pulp.  Not only can the bacteria cause a pus filled abscess but the it can also travel into your bloodstream. 

Inflammation caused by bacteria in your mouth can spread to other areas of your body.

The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health states that poor dental health significantly contributes to medical conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Premature birth
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Some types of Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Inflammation related diseases

Periodontal disease is a treatable cause of cardiovascular disease. However, ongoing periodontal inflammation can make it difficult to treat other diseases you may already be suffering from.  Inflammation makes it hard for the body to regulate your metabolic state, causing blood sugar levels to fluctuate.

Plaque feeds on the sugars on your teeth to produce acids that damage enamel. Poor blood sugar control in your mouth breeds harmful bacteria and that in turn can raise your blood sugar levels even further. Periodontal disease is a major complication of diabetes. Diabetics carry a higher risk of periodontal disease and tooth loss than non-diabetics. Regular exercise, a low sugar diet and eating foods that are high in fibre help overall health, but they are great dental care also.

A holistic dentistry approach to good oral health will treat you as more than just a mouth. A holistic dentist will ask questions like, “what medications are you taking for other health concerns?”  Side effects from blood pressure medication can cause a dry mouth.

Dry mouth is a decreased production of saliva. Not only can dry mouth delay healing times after surgical procedures such as having a tooth removed, it can also cause frequent oral infections. Dry mouth can also be an early indicator of Diabetes.

Poor oral hygiene can cause health problems in children. A child who experiences tooth pain or sensitivity may eat less or not at all and affect the child’s growth. An undetected abscess could affect sleep patterns and cause fussiness or sickness.

What can you do to prevent your mouth affecting your overall health or vice versa?

  • Brush and floss twice a day. Learn correct techniques to maximize on plaque removal without injuring your teeth or gums.
  • Have a dental check up every six months. Talk to your dentist about any concerns.
  • Note any loose or wobbly teeth and consult a doctor.
  • Have blood sugar levels and blood pressure checked regularly.
  • If you suffer from diabetes or heart disease, make greater efforts in good oral health to help decrease symptoms.

Keeping your mouth healthy is one step closer to a long, healthy life.


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