How oral health affects general health

How your oral health affects your general health is a topic that’s garnered a lot of interest. Specifically, bad oral health can have a really serious impact on your general health. In the past, we used to look at oral health in isolation from the rest of your health but we now know that there are common risk factors between the two — the condition of your oral health correlates to your general health and vice versa. If one becomes worse, it could well affect the other. This blog explores further the link between the two.

Being in poor oral health

In 2003 the World Oral Health Report clearly set out the relationship between oral health and general health, a link which has been proven by evidence. The relationship between the two operates in four major ways.

Firstly, having poor oral health is significantly associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, kidney diseases, strokes, dementia and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Secondly, poor oral health causes disability in that it creates negative social impacts. In other words, oral disease often reduces a person’s quality of life.

Thirdly, there are common risk factors between oral health issues and major diseases.

Fourthly, general health problems may cause or worsen oral health conditions as well. In that regard, the link works both ways.

Working in tandem

Thankfully, there’s a lot more awareness now within both professions about the link between oral and general health. For instance, if I see certain conditions like gum disease or I know that a client is missing teeth, I’m instantly aware that there might be other health-related issues. That always prompts me to ask questions about a client’s general health. The same thing applies with doctors.

A good example would be where a client is diagnosed with diabetes, in which case he or she will have a high risk of having gum-related disease and we need to make sure that their gums are okay. Another example might be where a client has cardiovascular disease, in which case both doctor and dentist need to make sure that there’s no infection in the teeth.

Both professions need to work together to have a holistic approach to treating clients. By taking that two-pronged approach, whereby the doctor and dentist work in tandem, we make sure that we’re not just treating the symptoms, but the cause.

Regular check-ups

As always, regular check-ups are vital because that’s where issues are going to be picked up. Also, it’s important to be aware of your situation health-wise and proactive about how you deal with it.

A good website for further information about this topic is the Dental Health Services Victoria (dhsv.org.au). If you’d like to explore the issue further, it has a link to articles about how oral health affects general health.

Click to learn more about our approach to General Dentistry at The Dental Room.