The Mouth/Body Connection

Many times in the dental office, after patients have answered a page full of questions about their general health and any medications that they are taking, they will ask me why I need all of that information just so they can get their teeth cleaned. Just as medications and any health issues in the rest of our body affect our mouth, the same is true for how the health of our teeth and gums affects the rest of our body.

Since the late 1990s, evidence has continued to mount supporting what dental professionals had long suspected: infections in the mouth, such as periodontal disease, a serious gum infection that destroys attached fibers and supporting bone that holds teeth in the mouth, can play havoc elsewhere in the body. Although more research needs to be done to say definitively that people with periodontal disease are at a higher risk for developing heart disease, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes, pre-term births, and respiratory disease, dentists and periodontists do know that periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the gums, and all infections are cause for concern.

Periodontal bacteria can enter the bloodstream, travel to major organs, and begin new infections. Research has confirmed that this can contribute to the development of heart disease, which is the nation’s leading cause of death. Research is also suggesting that this may increase the risk of stroke and pose a serious threat to people whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory diseases, and osteoporosis. Pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.

As research continues to discover and confirm the links between the health of our mouths and the health of our bodies, it is important to remember that the only way to really know about the health of your mouth is to visit your dentist regularly. If you’ve been putting off that visit to your dentist, now is the time to pick up the phone, not only for your oral health but for your overall health as well.

Gary Kline, DDS is a graduate of Creighton Dental School and has practiced denistry in the Gallatin Valley for 27 years. His associate Shannon Jones, DDS, also a graduate of Creighton Dental School, has practiced in the Gallatin Valley for two years and is involved in the Optimist Club, Rotary Club, BPW, an others.