What Your Oral Health Reveals About Your Overall Health

By David Frank, D.M.D. – March 24, 2023

No matter the emphasis placed on staying healthy, individuals often overlook aspects of health right under their noses — particularly, their teeth.

For too long, we’ve overlooked the benefits of keeping our oral health as vitally important as the rest of our medical health. But the truth is: our mouths can reveal quite a lot about our overall health, and well-maintained teeth and gum tissue is critical to staying healthy. 

It’s never too late to put your oral health on the same priority list as the rest of your health and fitness.

Consequences of Poor Oral Health

Brushing properly, flossing appropriately and regularly keeping up with dentist appointments and cleanings help keep bacteria under control. While poor oral hygiene causes dental cavities, tooth decay and gum disease, many don’t realize that such dental issues can contribute to serious health conditions and diseases.

Woman brushing teeth.

Many debilitating illnesses are triggered or worsened by the body in a state of chronic inflammation. When the gums are inflamed, not only will the inflammatory process start to deteriorate the surrounding jawbone holding the teeth in place, but the consequences are also often irreversible if left untreated. Dental cavities may also result in broken teeth and abscess formation. Its spread into the upper jaw sinuses and fascial spaces between the connective tissue in the face and neck may result in severe swelling that can threaten to close the airway or cause the body to go into sepsis, the body’s extreme reaction to an infection.

Health Conditions Linked to Oral Health 

The connection between oral health and overall health and wellness has been often overlooked but in recent years, medical literature has revealed the systemic connection between the state of our oral health and its impact on overall health. According to research and studies, the following health conditions have been linked to oral health. 

  • Cardiovascular Issues. While oral problems may not directly cause cardiac conditions, they are related and may contribute to heart problems. Recent research has speculated there is a strong link between dental issues, including periodontitis and advanced gum disease, with cardiovascular issues. In short, individuals with poor dental health have increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia. Some research suggests the link may be due to inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pneumonia. While more research is needed to evaluate the relationship between pneumonia and oral health, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and infect the lungs, leading to symptoms of pneumonia. In fact, a 2020 study in Korea revealed an association between oral health and pneumonia and found missing teeth, cavities and poor oral hygiene are linked. 
  • Pregnancy and Birth Complications. According to a paper on oral care in pregnancy, pregnant women are more susceptible to oral health conditions such as tooth decay, dental erosions, gingivitis, periodontitis or tumors, which could be detrimental to both their health and the baby’s health. Ignoring oral and dental health can lead to premature birth and low birth weight in infants.
  • Diabetes. Managing diabetes helps individuals manage more than just blood sugar, as it can help prevent gum disease and other infections in the mouth. High blood sugar can make it more difficult to keep the mouth healthy as it can weaken white blood cells that help fight infections in the mouth. 

Best Practices for Maintaining Oral Hygiene

Close-up of a smile.

The great news is that the mouth is easy to keep clean and is the fastest area of the body to heal, so maintaining oral hygiene is key.

A key way to do this is to maintain proper nutrition as it can go a long way and help keep your teeth healthy. Be aware of what you eat and drink, as certain foods in excess can play a negative role and cause damage over time. 

Along with that, avoid neglecting routine check-ups and cleanings. They are both crucial pieces of preventive care. While in between routine check-ups, be cognizant of brushing and flossing teeth daily. Make sure to brush your teeth for two minutes.

Keeping Health Comprehensive

Being healthy is truly comprehensive. The human body is so complex and interconnected that just one organ system sub-optimally performing can lead to detrimental effects on one’s overall well-being. If one part suffers, the rest does, too — so make sure to keep watch over your oral health.

About the Author

David Frank smiling.

As an experienced cosmetic dentist, David Frank is the owner and founder of Walden Dental, an Austin-based practice that offers affordable, personalized and efficient dental care. 


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