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Surprising Links Between Dental Health and General Health

Posted Thursday, Jul 16, 2020 by Altierus

You know that taking care of your teeth is important. Did you know that your dental health can also impact the health of your heart, your mental and social wellbeing, and possibly even affect your risk of developing type II diabetes? Medical research is beginning to draw the links between health in the mouth, the gateway to the body, and the body overall. Here are a few of the best-established links.

Untreated Gum Disease May Raise the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Many people experience gingivitis, a swelling of the gums that makes them prone to bleeding when brushing teeth. Gingivitis, which is caused by bacteria, can turn into a more serious chronic condition known as periodontitis, in which gum tissue recedes from the teeth, bone in the jaw is damaged, and teeth become loose or fall out.[i]

According to the British National Health Service (NHS), the chronic inflammation and bacterial infection present in periodontal disease can spread into the entire body, causing damage to the blood vessels leading to the brain and heart over a long period of time. This damage raises the risks of heart disease and stroke.[ii]

Diabetes and Oral Diseases Go Hand-in-Hand

According to the Cleveland Clinic, people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease. This is in part because uncontrolled diabetes weakens white blood cells, which makes the body less able to fight off the bacteria present in gum disease. In addition, diabetes can cause dry mouth, which raises the risk of tooth decay.[iii]

Researchers are also uncovering more and more evidence that gum disease can play a role in causing or worsening diabetes. Inflammation caused by periodontitis has been shown to negatively affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.[iv] “Fortunately,” says a WebMD article on the topic, “you can use the gum disease-diabetes relationship to your favor: managing one can help bring the other under control.”[v]

Gum Disease is Linked to Premature Birth

Multiple studies have shown that periodontal disease is linked to premature birth in expectant mothers.[vi] Although the exact way in which gum disease may contribute to early birth isn’t fully understood yet, a British study published in 2019 by the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that women who went into labor early had gum health that was four times worse than women who did not. The women whose babies were born early also had eight times more oral plaque than the other women.[vii]

According to the American Pregnancy Association, hormonal changes in the body make women more susceptible to gingivitis and periodontitis during pregnancy.[viii] While studies linking poor oral health and premature birth have generated some contradictory evidence, it’s clear that it’s important to take oral health seriously when expecting a baby.

Oral Health and Overall Wellbeing

Finally, gum disease, tooth decay and other oral problems can impact how people “look, speak, chew, taste food and socialize”.[ix] If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know how that pain can impact your entire day. It can also be embarrassing to speak or smile with missing or decayed teeth. According to a 2012 survey conducted by a British dental facility, people with poor oral health feel less confident speaking in public, are less likely to smile, and in extreme cases may even avoid leaving the house.[x]

How You Can Help

You can protect yourself from many of the negative impacts of poor oral health by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. If you’re interested in helping others improve their dental health and overall wellbeing, you can also pursue a career as a dental assistant. These professionals play an important role in assisting with dental treatments, educating patients about dental health, and making patients feel welcome at their dental practice.

At Altierus Career College, we offer a hands-on dental assistant training program you can complete in as few as nine months of study. Scrubs, an iPad, and test fees for any certification exams you may need to take to practice in your state are all included in the cost of the program. Learn more today!


[i] https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html

[ii] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/health-risks-of-gum-disease/

[iii] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11263-oral-health-problems-and-diabetes

[iv] https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oral-health-the-mouth-body-connection

[v] https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oral-health-the-mouth-body-connection, p.1

[vi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5303728/

[vii] https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/study-highlights-link-between-gum-disease-and-premature-labour

[viii] https://americanpregnancy.org/is-it-safe/swollen-gums-during-pregnancy/

[ix] https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/83/9/editorial30905html/en/

[x] https://www.fhdc.co.uk/bad-teeth-can-affect-your-mental-health/