Medical Conditions Affected by Oral Health
Tooth decay (dental caries), gingivitis, and periodontal disease are common causes of poor oral health that affect other parts of the body. The connection between oral health and other diseases is not always clear, but the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and chronic inflammation in the oral cavity are both believed to cause or worsen many other conditions.
Heart and blood vessel diseases
Periodontal disease is linked to coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), and stroke.2,3 It is believed that these conditions are affected by inflammation caused by gum disease. Bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream during dental procedures. This can cause endocarditis — inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and heart valves — in people at higher risk due to other heart conditions.3
Chronic inflammation in one part of the body can affect the entire body. Autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and ankylosing spondylitis are linked to poor oral health. Research shows that some bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also trigger RA.4
Alzheimer’s and dementia
Recent research has found that oral bacteria may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.5
Bacteria in the mouth can enter the lungs and cause pneumonia. People with cavities are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.6
Poor oral health is linked to a higher risk of medical problems during pregnancy. These can be life-threatening conditions, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, miscarriage, and stillbirth, as well as low birth weight and premature birth.6
Medical Conditions That Affect Oral Health
Poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of infections such as periodontal disease. Diabetics tend to develop more severe gum disease. Also, having gum disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels.6
Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken due to a loss of calcium and phosphorus, the main minerals that make up bone. Osteoporosis is associated with periodontal disease, possibly due to bone loss in the jaw.6
Autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases can also contribute to poor oral health.7 Oral health problems can be the first sign of diseases such as dry mouth caused by Sjögren’s syndrome or mouth ulcers caused by Behcet’s disease. Rheumatoid arthritis may both cause and be caused by periodontal disease.8
HIV/AIDS prevents the body from fighting infections. This can lead to lesions in the mouth, including canker sores (aphthous ulcers), herpes, hairy leukoplakia, and thrush (oral candidiasis).9
Alzheimer’s and dementia
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect oral health.10 Poor oral hygiene is often seen in people with dementia and other disabilities that affect cognition.
Oral Health and Overall Health
Oral health is an important part of overall health and wellness. Diseases of the teeth and gums can affect the rest of the body by exposing it to bacteria and chronic inflammation. Improving oral hygiene and treating tooth decay and gum disease can improve your overall health. Likewise, some medical conditions can directly or indirectly affect oral health. Treating osteoporosis, diabetes, and other conditions is important for good oral health.
Take control of your health by making healthier choices. Remember to make oral health a priority; it’s important for your overall health and wellness.
1. Fiorillo L. Oral Health: The first step to well-being. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Oct 7;55(10):676. doi: 10.3390/medicina55100676. PMID: 31591341; PMCID: PMC6843908.
2. Mathews MJ, Mathews EH, Mathews GE. Oral health and coronary heart disease. BMC Oral Health. 2016 Nov 15;16(1):122. doi: 10.1186/s12903-016-0316-7. PMID: 27846870; PMCID: PMC5111198.
3. Cleveland Clinic. How Your Oral Health Affects Your Overall Health. Accessed March 8, 2023. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/oral-health-body-connection/.
4. Ogrendik M. Rheumatoid arthritis is linked to oral bacteria: Etiological Association. Mod Rheumatol. 2009;19(5):453-456. doi: 10.1007/s10165-009-0194-9. Epub 2009 Jun 24. PMID: 19554393.
5. Beydoun MA, Beydoun HA, Hossain S, El-Hajj ZW, Weiss J, Zonderman AB. Clinical and bacterial markers of periodontitis and their association with incident all-cause and Alzheimer's disease dementia in a large national survey. J Alzheimers Dis. 2020;75(1):157-172. doi: 10.3233/JAD-200064. PMID: 32280099.
6. Mayo Clinic. Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health. Accessed March 8, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475.
7. Saccucci M, Di Carlo G, Bossù M, Giovarruscio F, Salucci A, Polimeni A. Autoimmune diseases and their manifestations on oral cavity: Diagnosis and clinical management. J Immunol Res. 2018 May 27;2018:6061825. doi: 10.1155/2018/6061825. PMID: 29977929; PMCID: PMC5994274.
8. Bingham CO 3rd, Moni M. Periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis: The evidence accumulates for complex pathobiologic interactions. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2013 May;25(3):345-53. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e32835fb8ec. PMID: 23455329; PMCID: PMC4495574.
9. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. HIV/AIDS & Oral Health. Accessed March 8, 2023. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/hiv-aids
10. Auerbacher M, Gebetsberger L, Kaisarly D, Schmidmaier R, Hickel R, Drey M. Oral health in patients with neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular disease: A retrospective study. Disabil Rehabil. 2022 Jun 27:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2022.2088866. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35760764.