Dental Health

Oral health: A window to your overall health

Your oral health is more important than you might realize. Get the facts about how the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health.By Mayo Clinic Staff


Did you know that your oral health can offer clues about your overall health — or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Understand the intimate connection between oral health and overall health and what you can do to protect yourself.

What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?

Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Treating gum disease may help reduce symptoms of prostate inflammation, which can make urination difficult, a small study suggests.

Previous research has shown a link between gum disease and prostate inflammation — called prostatitis.

The study included 27 men, age 21 and older, who had prostatitis and moderate to severe gum disease. The men underwent treatment for gum disease and showed significant improvement in their gums within four to eight weeks, the study authors said.

The men received no treatment for their prostatitis, but symptoms of the condition improved in 21 of 27 of them after their gum diseasewas treated, according to the study published recently in the journalDentistry.

“This study shows that if we treat the gum disease, it can improve the symptoms of prostatitis and the quality of life for those who have the disease,” corresponding author Dr. Nabil Bissada, chair of periodontics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said in a university news release.

Gum disease affects more than the mouth. It also can cause inflammation in other parts of the body, Bissada said. Previous research at Case Western had found a link between gum disease and fetal deaths, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers said.

Bissada said he wants to make gum disease treatment a standard part of treatment for prostate disease, much like dental checkups are advised before heart surgery or for women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy.

Diabetes puts you at risk for dental problems. It impairs the ability to fight bacteria in your mouth. Having high blood sugar encourages bacteria to grow and contributes to gum disease. You may have gum disease if you have:

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