Dentistry and medicine have been considered separate disciplines for more than a century despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence to prove the connections between oral health and overall medical health. It has been known since the 19th century that an abscessed tooth can lead to death if not treated. In more recent times, connections have been made between several oral health conditions and medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease and chronic pain. Without getting too deep into the research, we’ll cover a few of those connections in this article and explain how regular oral checkups can help you maintain good overall health.
Gingivitis, Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Health
Scientists have suspected for a long time that there is a link between the plaque that builds up on your teeth and the plaque that can restrict blood flow in your arteries, even though the makeup of the plaques are not the same. There is evidence that points to lifestyle habits and diet being the common factor that makes people with gum disease 2 to 3 times more likely to experience cardiovascular issues. However, there is also a body of research that shows the connection has more to do with excessive inflammation, which is a hallmark of gingivitis and gum disease. So that’s a good reason to brush and floss every day, to remove the plaque that builds up on your teeth. Regular dental cleanings with a dental hygienist remove the plaque under the gumline to prevent inflammation and gum disease.
Bad Breath and Erectile Dysfunction
Chronic bad breath or halitosis is one of the early signs of gum disease or periodontitis. In 2011, a group of researchers in China found that periodontitis negatively affected erectile function in animals. While much more research is needed to determine if the effects are the same in humans, chronic inflammation is known to contribute to erectile dysfunction. Reducing inflammation in the body, for example, by preventing or repairing gum disease, can ultimately help prevent erectile dysfunction.
Misaligned Bite and Migraines
More than half of the population has misaligned teeth or teeth that are not perfectly straight. In more severe cases, malocclusion or a ‘bad bite’ results. Malocclusion occurs when your teeth don’t properly meet together as you bite down. Malocclusion can cause pressure points in your mouth and jaw, which can lead to chronic pain, including TMJ and migraines. While malocclusion isn’t caused by poor dental hygiene, your dentist can help identify it and solve it before it becomes a serious concern. With braces or aligners, teeth can be moved into better alignment, correcting the bite and eliminating the pressure points to reduce the tension and pain.
Tooth Loss and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis and bone loss are conditions experienced by many people (both men and women) as they age. There is strong evidence to show that osteoporosis is connected to bone loss in the jaw. This can lead to tooth mobility (loose teeth) and tooth loss as support from the jaw bone deteriorates. Osteoporosis has few visible symptoms however receding gums, and inflammation around the gumline are among the signs. Your dentist can help with early detection by spotting mobility or jaw bone issues early on.
While dentists and doctors are trained differently, many of their principles of practice are the same. Dentists specialize in oral health and take part in continuing education throughout their careers. Medical doctors may specialize in other parts of the body, but they all understand that the systems are interconnected. Regular dental checkups and cleanings can allow your dentist to help detect areas of concern and lead you to find the root cause and maintain or improve your overall health.