Increasingly, the public is recognizing the role that the mouth plays in the health of the rest of the body. The health of the oral cavity and systemic health are inextricably linked. Due to this connection, when the practice of Sanjay Dhir, DDS in San Diego, California, works with patients to maintain the function and appearance of their smiles, our dental team is also supporting their overall wellness and wellbeing.
Consider how the state of the teeth, gums, jaws, joints, and associated muscles and tissues can affect basic, necessary functions. When toothaches arise, nutrition suffers. That triggers a cascade of systemic problems due to dietary deficiencies. Our body’s natural defenses are weakened. We are more susceptible to infections. It takes longer to heal from wounds or sicknesses. Toothaches also affect our ability to get restorative sleep. Chronic poor sleep quality is associated with a host of systemic problems, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease.
Likewise, our self-confidence and mental health are affected by how we feel about our appearance. Noticeable gaps or imperfections can damage that sense of emotional wellbeing in our smiles. Additionally, a massive body of medical literature connects the dots between oral diseases and medical conditions affecting other organs and bodily systems. The connections between the oral cavity and our body (“system”) primarily manifest in two different problems:
- The oral problem can be a symptom of another disease or be caused by that underlying medical condition.
- Problems with our teeth, gums, and other oral structures have also been implicated as the root cause of, or risk factor for, systemic disease.
For instance, periodontal (gum) disease is often listed as a sign of poor blood sugar control or diabetes. Reflux disorders, too, can erode the protective enamel as the acids related to this condition eat away at the tooth structure. Puffy gums and oral sores may also characterize Crohn’s disease and other GI disorders.
Alternatively, oral diseases are risk factors for conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure. Advanced gum disease or periodontitis is also a noted risk for pregnancy complications, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and respiratory infections. It is thought that oral problems and systemic disorders are linked to inflammation and specific harmful bacteria in the mouth.
The bacteria associated with chronic, severe inflammation can enter the bloodstream and slowly damage the blood vessels in the heart and brain. Advanced infections (abscesses) must also be treated promptly to avoid the spread of bacterial infection to the rest of the body. Sepsis is a systemwide infection that can lead to multiple organ failure, especially among pediatric or senior patients and those with weakened immune systems.
Fortunately, many of these conditions can be avoided or adequately managed with routine hygiene visits and exams at our practice in San Diego. Call (858) 358-5801 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Dhir.