Oral and overall health – get the connection

Oral and overall health connection

Evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy mouth may be related to having a healthy body.1 Unhealthy teeth and gums are often found in combination with heart disease and other life-threatening conditions,2 and many health complications can also impact your oral health.

Visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and exams can help boost your oral health and make you aware of any oral health problems at an early stage. Plus, your dentist may be able to detect other health problems at an early stage.

Here are examples of physical conditions that your dentist may detect:

  • Diabetes – People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease (swollen, red, infected gums.)3 Researchers think this occurs because diabetes reduces the body’s overall resistance to infection.
  • Cancer – During your dental exam, your dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening to help detect lumps or other changes in your throat, neck, jaw, skin or thyroid that may indicate cancer.
  • Heart disease – People with moderate to advanced gum disease have a greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, than people with healthy gums.4 Studies have not shown that one condition causes the other, but many of the risk factors for gum disease and cardiovascular disease (smoking, excessive alcohol use and poor nutrition) are the same.5
  • Kidney disease – Chronic bad breath, an unpleasant taste in the mouth and dry mouth are often signs of this condition. When the kidneys do not function properly, the by-products of incomplete protein breakdown are released, causing an unpleasant taste or odor in the mouth.
  • Anxiety – Did you know that anxiety can affect your oral health? Stress affects the immune system, which fights against the bacteria that cause periodontal disease, making you more prone to gum infection.6

Other medical conditions that your dentist may detect include thyroid problems, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep and breathing disorders, skin rashes, bruxism (teeth grinding), HIV, tuberculosis, drug abuse, anorexia, digestive disorders and upper respiratory problems.

Remember: Giving your mouth the same attention you give the rest of your body can really pay off in the long run. Make an appointment with your dentist today.

Last updated: October 2014
  • 1 American Dental Association, “Periodontal and Heart Disease,” 2014
  • 2 Footnote text: Academy of General Dentistry, “Importance of Oral Health to Overall Health,” 2012.
  • 3 American Dental Association, “Periodontal and Heart Disease,” 2014
  • 4 Academy of General Dentistry, “Oral Warning Signs Can Indicate Serious Medical Conditions,” 2012.
  • 5 Academy of General Dentistry, “Gum Disease Effect on Cardiovascular Health,” 2012.
  • 6 Academy of General Dentistry, ”Emotional Stress Could Cause Periodontal Disease,“ 2012.

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

SmileWay Wellness Program