Your oral and overall health have a definite relationship, which we call the Mouth-Body Connection® (MBC). With over two decades of research on the topic, we know much of this link has to do with inflammation and harmful bacteria in the mouth that affect other parts of your body and any systemic conditions you might have.
In other words, your mouth is the window to the rest of your body. Let’s look at the relationship between inflammation, oral health, and overall health and how it affects the Mouth-Body Connection.
Inflammation and Your Overall Health
If there was one villain we could identify regarding major diseases, it is inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other serious conditions in the body.
Inflammation is your body’s natural reaction to injury or threat. Your immune response to inflammatory cells triggers the healing process and can assist in removing toxins or other invaders from your body. However, if there is a problem with the response, inflammation can affect your body in detrimental ways.
There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a site-based response that results from an injury or threat from a toxin. Chronic inflammation occurs when the cells attack a part of the body without threat and create an inflammatory response that never goes away. Chronic inflammation can interfere with your body’s systems and keep them from doing what they should.
Inflammation and Your Oral Health
In addition to your other systems in the body, inflammation has detrimental effects on your oral health. Bacteria in the oral cavity that threaten the gums trigger an inflammatory response. This response can trigger the early stages of gum disease or periodontal disease. If the inflammation remains and is left untreated, it can worsen, leading to swollen gums, gum tissue loss, gum recession, infection in the supporting bone and jaw joint, and tooth loss.
The inflammatory response from your oral health can travel to and affect any other inflammation in the body and vice versa. These connections, between tooth decay and health, periodontal disease, and cardiovascular disease, or gum disease and cancer, are examples of what makeup relationships identified by the MBC.
To learn more about inflammation and its effects on your overall and oral health, read our blog Chronic Inflammation Blog
Inflammation and the Increased Risk of Diabetes Connection
The presence of inflammation in the oral cavity increases the risk of developing other serious conditions. Type 2 diabetes is one of them.
For example, research suggests inflammation in the gums, a hallmark of gum disease, increases the risk of developing diabetes by nine percent. In addition, if you have many missing teeth, 15 or more, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes jumps to 21 percent. The American Diabetes Association indicated in 2017 that one in five people with severe gum disease had type 2 diabetes and didn’t know it. Salivary Diagnostics from a saliva test administered by your Smile Generation dental team can report the glucose levels in your mouth.
When you have gum disease and diabetes, the chronic inflammation in the gums can also affect your ability to control your blood sugar. Oral inflammation causes blood sugar levels to rise, making it difficult to control diabetes effects. Moreover, diabetes often prevents your body from healing from infection, which increases the inflammatory response in the gums. This circular relationship between these two conditions makes them a serious concern regarding the MBC.
Read our other blog to learn about the link between diabetes and your gums.
Inflammation and the Increased Risk of Heart Disease Connection
Another systemic condition affected by inflammation in the mouth is heart disease. Research has proven there is a relationship between gum disease and heart disease. People with gum disease are twice as likely to have a heart attack or suffer from other cardiovascular problems.
The connection here is the five bacteria found in the mouth, which we sometimes describe as the “5 biggest, baddest bacteria.” (To learn the five names of the bacteria and other relationships involved in the MBC, please download our eBook, “32 Reasons to Learn About the Mouth-Body Connection.”) These bacteria are the periodontal pathogens that can travel from the mouth throughout the body, wreaking havoc on your systems as they go.
To learn more about this connection between gum disease and your heart read our blog.
Inflammation and the Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s’ and Dementia
There also exists a relationship between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s. Like the other systemic conditions, gum inflammation increases the risk of developing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. This increased risk results from the bacterium entering the bloodstream and traveling throughout the body, including the brain.
Tooth loss is often a harbinger of future brain health decline. For example, losing more than half your teeth by age 60 makes you more than double your risk of Alzheimer’s. Also, tooth loss due to gum disease often happens 20 to 30 years before dementia. In addition to these brain health declines, poor oral health can affect cognitive function and mental health.
Like diabetes, this relationship between periodontal disease and the brain can be circular. Once brain health declines, it is more difficult to remember to care for your oral health. Neglecting oral care increases the bacterial load in the mouth, increasing the number of bacteria circulating in the body. In other words, more tooth loss leads to more memory loss and vice versa; the circle continues.
To learn more about the connection between your mouth and brain read our blog.
Inflammation in Gums Effect on Women’s Oral Health
Inflammation has adverse effects on overall health and oral health for both sexes. However, the impact of gum disease and hormones on women’s oral health tends to be more direct than these effects on men’s oral health.
Periodontal Disease and Women’s Health
One of the reasons women have a direct relationship between their sex and oral health is because of the hormonal changes they have throughout their lives, from puberty to menstruation and pregnancy to menopause. The hormonal changes that women experience change the conditions in their mouths, which can cause adverse effects on their oral health.
In particular, hormone levels increase blood flow to the gums, which can lead to bleeding and swelling. In addition, decreases in hormone levels, which occur with menopause, cause dry mouth as saliva levels drop, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive and gum disease worsens. Some women also feel a burning or tingling sensation in their mouths during menopause.
For example, pregnancy is a time when these effects are pronounced. Many women develop gum disease due to the changing hormone levels throughout pregnancy. These bacteria in their mouths can then travel throughout the body. Research has linked this bacterial load to adverse pregnancy outcomes, like low birth weight. There is also a connection between mothers that have gum disease and pre-term labor.
To learn more about women’s oral health at all life stages read our blog.
Gum Health: The Link Between All of Them
Gum disease is an infection caused by bacteria in the soft tissue surrounding your teeth, called gingiva. Untreated gum disease leads to gum deterioration and other symptoms, like red, swollen gums that bleed when brushing or flossing.
Research leaves little doubt that gum disease increases the risks of other severe health conditions, including a relationship identified between periodontal disease and cancer. This is because the mouth connects to everything, and what enters or develops in the mouth will pass through and travel to the rest of the body. With these pathogens from gum disease in the bloodstream, that’s how your gums affect your heart and brain and make it more difficult to manage conditions like diabetes.
The best way to avoid inflammation in the mouth affecting the rest of your body is to have excellent and consistent oral healthcare habits. These include brushing at least twice a day for two minutes using fluoride toothpaste and flossing between the teeth daily. In addition, you should see your Smile Generation®-trusted dentist at least twice a year for cleaning and evaluations. With our screening and clinical care, you have a chance to catch gum disease before it worsens and any related systemic conditions that could be associated with it.
To learn more about the connection between Periodontal Disease and the Mouth-Body Connection, read our blog
Find a Dentist Near You
Do you want to know more about the Mouth-Body Connection? Our Smile Generation team can help with answers and provide care and advice on what you need for optimal oral healthcare.
For more information or to find a Smile Generation dentist near you use our Find a Dentist Tool.