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Your Oral Health Affects Your Overall Health

The relationship between oral health and overall health is one that people historically have not understood. One reason: the healthcare industry has only slowly come around to the idea that the mouth is an interconnected part of the whole body and should be considered on the same plane; what affects one part of the body can affect any of the other parts. Thus, maintaining the health of your mouth is just as important as maintaining the health of the rest of your body.

How Oral Health Affects Your Overall Health

Each time you swallow, you’re sending saliva – and its components – from your mouth to the rest of your body. Besides water, saliva contains enzymes, electrolytes, mucus, food, antibacterial compounds, and even bacteria. If bacteria are allowed to reach high enough levels, oral infections such as tooth decay and gum disease can result, in some cases leading to oral surgery from practitioners such as Dr George Hatzigiannis, a respected oral surgeon in the Boston area. Ultimately, the infection can affect the overall health of your body. That’s another reason why taking care of your teeth and gums is so important.

In addition, a side effect of some medications is to reduce saliva flow, which inhibits the ability of saliva to wash away food and neutralize acids caused by bacteria. This can cause microbial invasion and lead to diseases. These medications include antihypertensives, antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antiemetics among others.

There is a relationship between the inflammation caused by bacteria in your mouth and other diseases. For example, research has linked gum disease to diabetes and heart disease.


The effect of diabetes on blood vessels impairs blood flow, which weakens gums and makes them susceptible to infection. In 2011, research found that dentists were able to identify cases of diabetes 73 percent of the time. If the dentists considered the results of blood tests, accuracy increased to 92 percent.

Heart Disease

A 2003 review of nine previous studies linked periodontal disease to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Although no proof has yet been found that gum disease causes heart disease, they do share common risk factors, such as cigarette smoking and diabetes, which might help explain why these diseases occur together.

Preventive Actions That Can Help Optimize Your Oral Health

If you regularly take care of your body by exercising and eating a healthy diet of mostly plants and a little protein, and you avoid tobacco, you’re already on the right track to optimizing your health. In addition, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or when the bristles begin to fray.

Lastly, consider oil pulling, an Ayurvedic oral therapy dating back 3,000 years that has science to back it up. The microorganisms in the mouth consist of a single cell covered with a lipid membrane. When you swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, the cells come into contact with the coconut oil, also a fat, and they adhere to each other. In addition, coconut oil contains lauric acid, which may help fight tooth decay.

It’s past time for oral health to be considered on the same plane as overall health.