Mouth and Body Connection: A Holistic Approach To Dentistry

Dr. Michael Atchley, DDS | 10.18.2016

Mouth and Body Connection: A Holistic Approach To Dentistry

In recent years, medical professionals have begun to see a large correlation between your oral health and your overall health, including your mind and body. This Mouth and Body Connection has been a huge topic of conversation for the past decade. Before this holistic approach took root, doctors would have never sent patients to a dentist for conditions like heart disease, pregnancy, or diabetes. Now, though, it is apparent that proper dental hygiene and regular dental check-ups can greatly improve quality of life for those with diabetes, heart disease, or many other chronic conditions that can be tied back to poor oral hygiene.

It All Starts With the Gums

Your gums are a gateway to the rest of your body. If they are mistreated or not cared for, that gateway starts to rot. Bacteria on your teeth make your gums prime targets for infections and inflammation. This inflammation produces chemicals that wear away the lining of your gums and can eat away at the structure that holds your teeth in place. This is called gum disease, and the infected and inflamed areas are now influencing the way your body works and is sending un-killed germs and bacteria into your body. 

Mouth and Diabetes Connection

The inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontal disease) can alter the way your body manages blood sugar. "Periodontal disease further complicates diabetes because the inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin," says Pamela McClain, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Mouth and Heart Disease Connection

It has become clear that there is a strong correlation between heart disease and gum disease. Studies have found that 91% of patients with heart disease also have severe gum disease. We also see that these two conditions can be influenced by tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, and staying overweight. Inflammation from gum disease causes inflammation in blood vessels, which can increase the chance of heart attack or stroke. This is because inflamed blood vessels prevent blood from flowing easily through the veins, causing high blood pressure. The chance that fatty plaque will break away from an inflamed blood vessel and travel to the brain or heart increases as a result of gum disease as well.

Mouth and Pregnancy Connection

Many factors contribute to the health of your pregnancy, but there are studies completed that show a connection between gum infections and pregnancy complications. Severe gum disease can alter your hormone balance, which can increase the risk for pregnant women. Infection and inflammation affects a fetus’ development as well, so be sure to have a full gum exam before or during pregnancy!

How Do I Keep A Good Mouth & Body Connection?  
We’ve talked a lot about the affects your gums can have on the rest of your body, but in no way is this an extensive list of possible issues. For example, smoking prevents your gums from fighting infections, and even receiving successful treatment. Rheumatoid Arthritis has shown to be reduced once gum disease is treated. Gum infections can even increase the severity of some conditions such as pneumonia. And being obese or having a high volume of body fat increases the rate at which gum disease can spread throughout your body! You see? There are so many factors that rely on each other, but the bottom line is that if you don’t take care of your gums, or your teeth, or your tongue then you are much more likely to suffer from chronic conditions and even struggle more when recovering from them.

About Dr. Atchley
Dr. Michael Atchley, DDS, is the lead Dentist at Dental Bliss, and is a recognized expert in the fields of general and aesthetic dentistry, and he has trained rigorously with the top aesthetic and restorative dental instructors from around the world. In addition to his advanced training, Dr. Atchley serves on the board helping those who cannot afford dental care get the treatment they need.