Oral health is often treated as independent of the body, but the mouth-body connection is much closer than people realize. Often symptoms of total body issues can first be found in the mouth. Medications and treatments for body complications can have dire consequences for oral health, and oral problems can grow into full body issues. With these truths in mind, the health of the teeth and gums should be treated with the full body in mind, and periodontal disease should be taken seriously as any bodily infection would.
The Mouth-Body Connection
When your body is sick, your mouth is not invulnerable to the issues. For example, people with weakened immune systems are more prone to oral infections. This could be from a simple cold virus to a terminal disease. Sometimes a reoccurring oral infection is the first sign of a total-body issue involving the immune system.
Acid reflux, often an indication of a larger bodily problem, can first show signs in the body by damaging the rear teeth and gums. Some people aren’t even aware they are suffering from reflux, but their mouth will tell a different story. As the GERD brings acids from the stomach up, they can coat the backs of teeth and gums, breaking down enamel and damaging the gums surrounding the teeth. Actions like rinsing the mouth with water throughout the day can help combat the oral damage, while treating the GERD as your doctor recommends.
Breath is another strong indication of underlying illness. Kidney disease can result in “fishy” or “ammonia-like” breath. Lung disease is also easily detected with strong bad breath, as can asthma which has an acidic smell. Even diabetes has a “sweet” negative scent. Left untreated, many of these issues can bring on complications or even death. If you notice a change in breath scent, visit a doctor or dentist immediately.
Taking prescription medication also affects a person’s oral health. Common side effects like “dry mouth” should be considered, not ignored. Without counter-measures, dry mouth can cause oral yeast infections and increased dental decay. Depending upon the underlying cause, dry mouth can be treated with a saliva-increasing medication, with special oral rinses, by increasing water intake, by sucking on sugar-free treats, and by increasing the moisture in the air.
High blood pressure medication can cause gums to swell and even increase gum growth, also known as Gingival Overgrowth. This growth and swelling can trap bacteria and result in serious tooth decay, cavities, and even tooth loss. Increased flossing and special attention to oral cleanliness can help, as well as frequent dental visits to monitor the issue.
Body Side Effects
Oral issues are also not isolated from the total-body. For example, a mouth infection can disrupt blood-sugar levels and impact diabetes treatments. Periodontal disease has been linked with heart disease, kidney disease, premature birth, and strokes. Oral infections can spread, causing facial swelling and problems in your limbic systems. If you find you have an oral issue, it is best to have it checked and treated before it gets out of control.
Whether it is a resulting symptom of a bodily issue or isolated to the mouth, up to 50% of people in the US sufferer from mild to severe gum disease. This does not necessarily include those with oral symptoms of other issues, like bad breath and rear tooth decay.
It’s time for us to begin treating the mouth more seriously. Visit your dentist regularly. Follow the recommended diets and treatment plans if an issue is found. And if you are suffering from a non-oral illness or taking new medication, pay special attention to your mouth-health until you know how you are affected. Work with your dentist to create a preventative plan that suits your lifestyle.
If you would like to learn more and have your total oral health reviewed, call our office at 203-951-5540 to set an appointment.
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