Oral Health. Overall Health. And the Covid Connection

Oral health is directly connected to your overall health. Too often, we have reduced dentistry to toothaches or showing off a “good set of pearly-whites”. However, healthcare experts now know oral health is linked to heart disease, strokes, inflammation, life-expectancy, diabetes, digestion, pregnancy, and bacteria found in your bloodstream. 

Understanding the greater role of oral health can help you build your healthcare strategy while considering your whole body – including your mouth. Here are a few pointers as you consider dental care. 

It All Starts Here

Because our nutrients enter our body through our mouths, it could be argued your healthcare begins in your mouth. But too often, we equate dentistry with teeth, and not with health. This is an oversight many are working to correct. If our mouth (teeth, gums, tongue, etc.) is not taken care of, our health will begin to decline. For example, the ability to chew food is often taken for granted until we’re no longer able to chew food. Suddenly we realize it’s a big problem. 

Working strategically to prevent unnecessary deterioration is key. As we age, issues with our teeth and gums can become major hindrances to our life and enjoyment of life. These are issues many of us are aware of. However, the unseen (and often unknown issues) are possibly even more important. The Mayo Clinic writes

“Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — mostly harmless. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause disease…. Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, these diseases would include: 

  • Endocarditis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pregnancy and birth complications
  • Pneumonia
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

A Covid-19 Concern 

We want to emphasize, much research has to be done before knowing any direct link between COVID-19 and specific dental issues being reported. That said, it is worth noting reports.

Recently, the NY Times reported on potential links between the Covid-19 pandemic and health issues people are experiencing. “Some Covid survivors say loose teeth have fallen out without bleeding. Others claim their gums are more sensitive, or that their teeth are turning grey or chipping,” says writer Wudan Yan of the NY Times. Others have reported unusual discoloration of the tongue. 

However, no research is needed to identify issues that are directly related to the pandemic. Here’s what dentists do know is directly linked to the pandemic:

  • Stress causes grinding and the pandemic has increased stress substantially. 
  • Grinding leads to broken and/or cracking teeth.
  • The fear of getting out is preventing dental patients from coming in for regular care.

Quantity and Quality Matter

Quality of life is an ongoing discussion as healthcare improvements continue to increase our life expectancy. And people are concerned about the quantity of life, not just quality of life

Oral health contributes to both more than previously thought. One research project demonstrated that people who floss live longer by an average of 6.4 years. This is because it helps prevent the side effects of not flossing. When plaque build-up is left unchecked by flossing and regular cleanings, our oral bacteria begin to create an increase in tartar and inflammation of the gums – or periodontitis.

“This stage is called periodontal disease and can destroy the bone and tissue that hold teeth in place, resulting in a higher risk of tooth decay and loss. But problems inside your mouth are just the tip of the iceberg. Gum disease has been associated with ailments in other areas of the body as well, including heart disease, HPV infection, mouth cancers, diabetes, and kidney failure.” The Business Insider by Guia Marie Del Prado

Ultimately this leads to the inability to chew, eat, and digest food properly. 

It Was Good Advice…Now It’s Good Health

Many remember being taught in grade school or by our grandparents, “See your dentist every six months for regular checkups.” Fifty years ago this seemed like good advice for your teeth; now it’s an essential practice for your health. 

The more our healthcare professions study the human body, the more convicted they are that your overall health is directly connected to the place everything begins – your mouth. We breathe through our mouths. We get nutrition through our mouths. We move our mouths for basic communication and everyday consumption. 

Taking care of our oral health is essential to our overall health. 

Learn more about how we can help you here.