Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
You may not think it, but skipping your annual or semi-annual dental checkup may be having an impact on more than just your plaque buildup. Studies have shown that your oral health—the health of your mouth—directly impacts certain aspects of your overall health.
Research shows a correlation between periodontal disease (gum disease or a build up of plaque between the teeth and gums) and heart disease. More specifically, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease and it can also make existing heart conditions worse.
A healthy mouth is about more than just avoiding bad breath! Research has shown that bacteria that grows in your mouth can be aspirated into your lungs, causing diseases such as pneumonia. The risk is even greater for people with gum disease.
It’s true…men with gum disease are 49 per cent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 per cent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 per cent more likely to develop blood cancers.
People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease. And research has shown that the correlation goes both ways. For example, gum disease may make it harder to control blood sugar levels. Severe periodontal disease can actually increase your blood sugar, which can lead to diabetic complications.
Pregnant women with gum disease are at an increased risk of several adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preeclampsia, preterm delivery and infants born with low birth weight.
People with moderate to severe gum disease are more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis than individuals with healthy mouths.
So what can you do?
Gum disease is the major risk factor at play here, but the good news is you can take action to prevent it. Adopting healthy habits can drastically reduce your risk of getting gum disease:
- Brush your teeth and clean your tongue twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Swish with mouthwash. Ask your hygienist about a mouthwash appropriate for you
- Know your risk, including factors such as age, tobacco use, diet and genetics
- Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly
Don’t forget to check your benefit coverage on My ASEBP to see how much of your visit is covered through your employer benefit plan. The Online Dental Guide, also accessible through My ASEBP, can tell you how often and how much of each procedure is covered by your benefits. Good oral health awaits!
Sources and Additional Reading
For this article, we referenced the following medical journals and industry websites that are authorities on the subject of oral health and its link to overall health. For additional reading on this topic, check out these links:
- Selected Associations Between Oral Conditions and General Health (FDI World Dental Federation)
- Oral Health and Overall Health (Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association)
- Periodontal Disease and Systemic Health (American Academy of Periodontology)
- Periodontitis and systemic diseases: A literature review (Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology)
- The most important perio-systemic facts (The National Magazine for Dental Hygiene Professionals)
- Connection between Oral Health and General Health (Canadian Association of Public Health Dentistry)
- Review of the Oral Disease-Systemic Disease Link. Part 1: Heart Disease, Diabetes (Canadian Journal of Dental Hygiene)
- Oral Health: A window to your overall health (Mayo Clinic)