How Your Oral Health Impacts You

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

January 29, 2024

dental care, gum disease, health and wellness, oral health, oral microbiome

Would knowing that your oral health impacts your overall health make you more conscious about your dental care? It might help provide an incentive to keep on top of your oral hygiene and dental checkups when you understand how dental health impacts your mental and physical health and well-being. Let’s look at how your oral health impacts you. 

The Dangers Of Oral Bacteria

dangers-of-oral-bacteria

Your mouth is the perfect environment for both good and bad bacteria. When you don’t take proper care of your teeth, harmful bacteria take over, and the balance needed to maintain tooth and gum health is disrupted. This leads to infection and inflammation. However, this balance in what is called your oral microbiome also influences your overall health, contributing to some serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory infections, and dementia. Further research is also exploring other possible ties, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer 

Gum Disease And Your Health

Stages of tooth decay and foods to avoid for healthy gums.

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. At this stage, you’ll notice your gums are red and swollen and tend to bleed when you brush or floss. If left untreated, your gum disease worsens, leading to periodontitis. This is the most severe stage of gum disease, causing gum recession, loosening teeth, bone loss, and eventually, tooth loss.

However, what many people don’t realize is that the bacteria that causes periodontitis creates toxic byproducts that can enter your bloodstream. When this happens, the toxins spread throughout your entire body, leading to serious infections and increasing the risk of the above conditions. 

Oral Health And Diabetes

oral-health-and-diabetes

The tie between poor oral health and diabetes is possibly the most researched of all the conditions related to periodontal disease. Studies show that if you have diabetes, you are at increased risk for periodontal disease, and vice versa. It is possible that systemic inflammation caused by periodontal disease impacts signals related to insulin. Further proof of the connection is shown through the treatment of periodontal disease in diabetics, that lead to reduced costs in diabetic-related healthcare. As a result, it seems that treating periodontal issues can reduce the severity of diabetes.

Oral Health And Pneumonia

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Patients in hospitals and nursing homes are at risk of inhaling oral bacteria that settle in the lungs. This increases the risk of bacterial pneumonia. It is believed that this risk increases in these patients specifically because they are unable to maintain regular flossing and brushing practices. At the same time, research has proven that preventive dental care and antibiotic periodontal treatments reduce the risk of pneumonia in these patients. 

Oral Health And Cardiovascular Disease

how-oral-health-impacts-you-oral-health-and-cardiovascular-disease

An international team of experts published a report tying periodontitis and cardiovascular conditions. This includes heart attack, stroke, and plaque buildup in the arteries. The report shows a connection between periodontal bacteria travelling to the arteries and cardiovascular conditions.

Also, the American Heart Association links inflammation in the gums to higher levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood, and poor heart health. Further studies in South Korea showed that of the 250,000 participants, those who brushed their teeth and received regular dental cleanings were less likely to have cardiovascular events than those with poor dental hygiene, cavities, tooth loss, or periodontitis. 

Oral Health And Pregnancy

how-your-oral-health-impacts-you-oral-health-in-pregnancy

Severe periodontal disease has been tied to preterm, low-birth-weight babies. Luckily, treatment for periodontal disease in pregnant women improves birth weight and reduces the risk of preterm birth. Oral bacteria can also travel to the placenta, causing an infection called chorioamnionitis, which increases the risk of premature delivery. It can also become life-threatening if not treated.

Another possible complication during pregnancy caused by oral bacteria is the activation of immune cells that circulate in the blood. This can cause inflammation of the womb, resulting in distress of the placenta or fetal tissues. Further studies will confirm these connections and hopefully help determine the causes. 

Oral Health And Mental Health

impact-of-oral-health-on-overall-health-connection-between-oral-health-and-mental-health

There are many ways oral health and mental health are connected, including oral bacteria found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. These bacteria are thought to induce chronic systemic inflammation and contribute to cognitive issues in patients with dementia. Other mental health conditions can be aggravated by poor oral health and imperfect smiles that impact self-esteem and cause people to feel self-conscious about their appearance.

Self-esteem issues directly impact quality of life, causing social anxiety and influencing a person’s desire to pursue educational, career and relationship opportunities. For example, disrupted speech related to poorly fitting dentures or dental pain impacts a person’s ability to speak and communicate clearly at work, school and in social situations, contributing to anxiety and depression related to social isolation.

Conditions such as depression can also lead to anxiety related to pursuing health and dental care, which means dental health is impacted without proper treatment. This can create a vicious cycle that leads to worsening dental health issues, self-esteem issues, and increased depression/anxiety. Mental illness can prevent people from following a dental care regime at home, increasing the severity of their dental issues, and causing chronic oral pain that contributes further to depression and anxiety. 

How Your Oral Health Impacts You: Improve Oral Health For Improved Well-Being

how-to-improve-oral-health-for-overall-health-and-well-being

The good news is that all it takes to improve your oral health is to adopt a basic dental hygiene regime. Following your dentist’s recommended home care guidelines will improve your oral health and help you reduce the possible negative impacts of unhealthy oral bacteria that can contribute to conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory infections
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Breast cancer

If you brush twice a day, floss daily, and book your dental checkups twice a year you can follow a preventative care plan to maintain good oral health. However, you should also be aware of dental issues such as:

  • Pain
  • Sensitivity
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Gum/tooth discolouration
  • Swollen gums
  • Loose teeth

Speaking to your dentist right away about possible oral health issues will ensure your condition is quickly diagnosed, and you can receive proper treatment before it leads to other health complications.

To stay on top of your health and well-being through your oral care regime, give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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