Long term poor oral health is linked to a number of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases (incl. aspiration pneumonia), stroke, dementia, kidney diseases, peripheral vascular disease, adverse pregnancy issues, stomach ulcers, obesity, oral cancer and dementia (incl. Alzheimer’s disease.
In light of recent research, the indefinite term “link” may soon be upgraded to “causative link” to describe how oral conditions relate to the onset of some chronic diseases. That’s because when oral pathogens spread and infect the brain & other parts of the body, they can interfere with protein folding – an extremely important and complex physiochemical process in the human body. Unfolded or misfolded proteins are known to contribute to the pathology of a number of diseases.
Poor oral health can lead to disability. When most people think of physical disabilities, wheelchairs and hearing aids come to mind easily. However, if you’ve lost your ability to chew correctly because of some missing molars, then this oral issue is very much a disability.
Oral conditions and disease can also cause embarrassment, pain and suffering. In addition to functional limitations, dental problems and symptoms can result in a loss of productivity.
Oral disease and chronic diseases share common risk factors. Your oral and general health share potential causes and risk factors. For example, a poor diet, lack of hygiene, smoking, alcohol use and stress are shared risk factors for both health areas.
To complicate things further, oral conditions and general health conditions are more likely to occur together, thus creating a knock-on effect. For example, if you become nutrient deficient because an oral infection affects your ability to chew, your immune system may become impaired – making it harder for your body to fight off the infection.
Chronic diseases may cause or exacerbate oral diseases. Having a general health problem can result in oral health complications. For example, diabetics with increased blood sugar levels may also have low pH saliva and very dry mouths. Without the protective effects of saliva at normal pH levels, they are at higher risk of tooth decay, cavities and periodontal disease. And the side effects of taking certain medications alone – regardless of the disease being treated – can also result in dry mouth and the ensuing oral complications.
Long-term stress and anxiety is associated with teeth clenching and grinding which can cause major teeth damage and wear & tear.
When you have poor oral health, this can lead to all sorts of oral conditions, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease. These oral conditions are usually the result of insufficient oral hygiene, high oral bacterial load and an unbalanced diet with a high proportion of refined carbohydrates and sugar. To make things worse, the longer you leave oral conditions untreated, the more likely you are to experience a destructive chronic infection that can seriously impact on the rest of your body and general health. The links between oral health and general health occur in four main ways: