It’s a long established fact that the parts of our bodies are interconnected to the point that they impact one another. “The part can never be well unless the whole is well” is a quote related by Plato which demonstrates at least a general awareness of this concept dating back almost 2,500 years. In many ways modern medicine has benefited from the increasing specialization of our doctors and researchers, but it’s important to remember that our bodies are a complex organization of mutually dependent components.
As an obvious cornerstone of the digestive and immune systems, your mouth is a significant cog in the machine that is your body. Most people can appreciate the advantage of avoiding toothaches and bad breath, but it’s easy to lose sight of the central role that oral health plays in your overall well-being. In fact, the ramifications of your dental wellness extend well beyond your teeth, gums, immune system and digestion.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the apparent link between oral hygiene and heart disease and heart attacks. Microbiologist Walter Bretz has stated that studies suggest “Certain bacteria present in the mouth may be related to clogging up the arteries by contributing to the plaque that builds on the walls of the arteries.” There is an even more firmly established connection between oral health and diabetes, with each of the two conditions proving to be mutually exacerbating for the other. These facts illustrate a significant relationship between the mouth and the circulatory system without even delving into the well-documented risk of oral infections entering the bloodstream.
If an organ as robust and unrelenting as the heart is unable to escape the influence of your oral health, then it stands to reason that the lungs would be vulnerable as well. After all, every breath that you take into your lungs passes first through your mouth. Indeed, Dr. Amir Azarpazhooh’s review of studies determined “There is good evidence that improved oral hygiene and frequent professional oral health care reduces the progression or occurrence of respiratory diseases.” Furthermore, dental plaque is an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria that cause pneumonia and COPD.
Pregnancy and Early Development
The links between dental health and success in pregnancy are getting increasingly more attention, and with good reason. Many conditions common in pregnancy can pose additional risk to the mother’s dental health, but it is also true that pre-existing dental issues can pose a threat to the healthy development of the fetus. For example, gingivitis appears to be a contributing factor toward premature births.
As your child grows older, their oral health has a proven impact on their eating habits, growth, speech, and self image. It can have a direct impact on their academic success also, as dental illness is one of the leading causes of missed school time in the U.S.
Unexpected Benefits to Good Oral Health
One of the unexpected ways that oral health has been found to affect our overall wellness is as it pertains to the health of our joints. Fascinating research has been done in the last few years that speaks to the interconnectivity of our bodies as well as the incredible scientific advancements that are being made toward determining disease origins.
Good health is one of the most precious blessings that any of us can have in life. We all owe it to ourselves to make high priority of our dental and overall wellness.